Nancy McKibben's Reviews > The Chalice

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
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bookshelves: historical-fiction, chick-lit, romance, reviewed
Recommended for: readers who like the DaVinci Code set in the 1400s

The Chalice
By Nancy Bilyeau

Set in 1538, during the reign of Henry VIII, The Chalice is stuffed with elements that should ensnare the reader: a feisty heroine, a mysterious prophecy, court intrigue, adventure, romance. What I liked best, since I am interested in that period of history already, is the author’s broad understanding of the culture of the day, and her ability to weave it believably into the story.

Ex-novice Joanna Stafford, no longer really in holy orders because the king has recently dissolved all the monasteries and convents in England and confiscated their properties, is living in Dartford in the company of a few other ex-nuns and monks. She has already escaped death in the first novel of the series (The Crown) and is pursued by a cadre of true believers who see Joanna as the fulfillment of a prophecy that was uttered over her ten years earlier by a holy woman. These believers wish to restore the Catholic church to its former glory in England, and they do not much care what Joanna thinks about her possible role in all this.

Although Joanna is attempting to pursue a quiet life weaving tapestries in Dartford, she is soon enough dragged back into the intrigue she has been trying to escape. The plot twists are thick and fast, but generally believable, and since some plot points are unresolved at the end of the novel, the reader is left anticipating a third book in the series.

I liked the book well enough to finish it, but where the author intended Joanna as a defiant rebel and independent woman of integrity, I found her a tad annoying. She waffles endlessly about her love life: I love Friar Edmond. No, I love Geoffrey. Nope, Friar Edmond. No, I should just be a nun. She also exhibits an obtuse unconsciousness of her own stunning beauty, despite being assured too many times by male characters that she is indeed the fairest of them all.

I wanted to like Joanna more, but even so, she is certainly a much more three-dimensional character than any of Dan Brown’s protagonists (I see The Chalice as a 16th century Da Vinci Code ) and I’m sure that many readers will find in her a character that they can root for.
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Reading Progress

November 15, 2013 – Started Reading
November 16, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 18, 2013 – Shelved
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: chick-lit
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: romance
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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