Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Chalice

The Chalice
By Nancy Bilyeau
Touchstone, March 2014

About the Book

In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic.

Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna. Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she’d ever imagined. She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.

To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain. As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, Joanna realizes that the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies. . . .

My Review

Joanna is not your run-of-the-mill nun. Her tales are full of political intrigue, romantic entanglements, and practices the church would deem heretical. For a former novice her life is decidedly unlike anything a nun would experience. Joanna is admittedly a poor judge of character—she has a particular talent for trusting people who eventually blackmail and exploit her when she proves less than compliant. But even if the theme of broken trust repeats itself, Joanna’s adventures are never dull and the intricacies of her plight, the people she meets, the heartbreaks she suffers, and the history she witnesses will keep you glued to the book, cheering her on.

Bilyeau’s work will keep you on the edge of your seat. The political and religious complexities are drawn so sharply, and the historical connections the author makes will leave you amazed—the pieces fit together seamlessly. Don’t miss this one.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer

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