With books that I love with all my heart, I find it difficult to be objective or critical of. All of those statements are true of CHALICE by Robin McKWith books that I love with all my heart, I find it difficult to be objective or critical of. All of those statements are true of CHALICE by Robin McKinley.
The worldbuilding here was all I could ask for, rich and twisted away from the world I know toward a place I wanted to be. And the characters, trapped in roles and situations not of their making, won my heart from the start. Elements of this world delighted me: bees and honey and fire.
Parts of this book broke my heart. The resolution more than made up for that heartbreak and more.
Not everyone will like McKinley's style. For some it may seem she leads you on a meandering path, stopping to notice odd things along the way, but all of those stops are important. All the bits she wants you to notice are signposts and have meaning.
And when that meaning hits, it's like finding the one piece of sky in the jigsaw puzzle you've searched and searched for that allows you to put the whole picture together.
I've been trying to expand my reading horizons and venture outside the type of books I usually read. While I've read some urban fantasy, those books wI've been trying to expand my reading horizons and venture outside the type of books I usually read. While I've read some urban fantasy, those books were disappointing enough that I stopped seeking UF books out. But I'd heard good things about Seanan McGuire's book Rosemary and Rue, so I gave it a try.
I ended up being very conflicted about this book. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't.
McGuire does so many things right in this book in terms of worldbuilding and finding new twists on the interaction between humans and the fae. I loved the changlings and their neither-here-nor-there existence between the two worlds. I adored the way San Francisco was divided into fiefdoms or kingdoms hidden from the majority of the population. I loved all the new twists and I could see where she took the worldbuilding in a new, unexpected direction.
But I couldn't stop mentally editing this book as I read or turn off the writer part of my brain. Every sentence that went on a phrase too long stood out. Every joke carried a tiny bit too far stood out, as did the quips that seemed out of place in the situation McGuire set up.
I won't spoiler the plot, but there is one scene where the main character, October Daye, believes that her estranged daughter has come to see her. That scene could have been moving, powerful, and emotionally wrenching. It could have given me as a reader some insight into Toby Daye. Instead, when Toby realizes that this person isn't her daughter, the character's response is to make internal quips about "Danger Will Robinson, danger!"
I almost tossed the book against a wall at that point. Moments like that--and there were more than one--threw me completely out of the story and kept me from caring about the characters, or the resolution of the book. Toby's emotional responses were out of synch with the seriousness of what was happening to her. That bothered me a lot.
As I said, I wanted to love this book. I wonder if I'd have enjoyed the book more if I weren't the kind of reader who notices all the gears grinding and the wheels turning.