Title: The Chalice
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
After the events of The Crown, Dartford Priory has been abolished, along with the other Catholic religious institutions under King Henry VIII’s direction. Joanna Stafford, now just a common woman, has settled in the town of Dartford and is content to live a quiet life raising her young nephew. But the world isn’t finished with Joanna, as she learns that she’s at the center of a series of prophecies that will restore the Catholic Church to England, and must play her part in bringing about the events of the future.
The Crown was a riveting historical novel that defied expectations and truly was a suspense thriller from beginning to end. That’s a hard thing to follow up on, especially considering that it was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, so it was with a little bit of wariness that I picked up the second book, The Chalice. Happily, though, there was little to worry about; Bilyeau continues the tense, climactic storyline and maintains the urgent tone that made the first novel so wonderful to read.
Once again, Joanna is at the center of continent-wide events in The Chalice. She’s understandably conflicted in this novel; she wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, to marry and raise her nephew Arthur, since being a nun is no longer possible. But at the same time, she can’t turn her back on the opportunity to restore her faith to England. This dilemma rages within Joanna from beginning to end. Readers will sympathize with Joanna and what her decisions cost her personally in her desire to accomplish the greater good.
By basing this series on an unknown, rather than on events set at the court of Henry VIII, Bilyeau has crafted a riveting tale that is both unique and engaging. There are many, many novels about this time period, to the point where sometimes it’s difficult for me to pick up yet another version of the story that’s been told over and over again. That’s why The Chalice is so refreshing; the events that readers of historical fiction know so well are merely a backdrop for Joanna’s story. It’s all new and wondrous.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful series that is set during a fascinating time period with amazing historical detail, pick up The Chalice as soon as you can. While it’s not really necessary to read these books in order, I highly recommend that you do. Not only will you miss out on great character development, but you’ll miss a novel that’s likely to become one of your favorites. It’s with breathless anticipation (and a bit of a heavy heart) that I look forward to the conclusion of this wonderful series.
Other books by Nancy Bilyeau: