Joanna Stafford has been cast out of Dartford Priory with her fellow novices and nuns thanks to the dissolution of the monasteries, but she’s still attempting to live quietly with her five-year-old cousin, Arthur. Fate won’t let her, though; an unexpected visit with relations who have been restored to prominence embroils Joanna in a plot that threatens the very heart of the nation. Even as she attempts to move past her previous life with a man who loves her, she can’t escape the threads of prophecy that wind themselves tighter and tighter as England’s future grows murky.
When I started this book, I’d somehow missed that it was a second book in a series – my own fault for not reading summaries or synopsis of any kind! The author does a good job of filling us in on the missing history, but I would highly recommend reading The Crown first so you don’t miss anything even if by accident.
That aside, though, I really liked this book, to my surprise as generally Tudor fiction doesn’t do it for me any more. Joanna is great as a main character and has a perspective unlike any that I’d read before. She has two struggles in this book; the first is against the prophecy which attempts to dictate her life and the second is to actually find what that life should be after her life in the priory. She’s a very religious girl by nature and by education and her inclinations in that way color her interactions with other people.
I liked the way that the prophecy was interwoven into the story. One of the things that is difficult to grasp for a modern mindset is that, in the medieval period at least, “magic” was often stuck in with religion without people struggling to differentiate between the two. I think this is starting to change at this point in time, but the prophecies around Joanna don’t really conflict with her faith. The messages from the prophets are a gift, not a curse, although Joanna grapples with what they actually mean she must do. The implications of them are interesting albeit extremely unlikely from a historical perspective.
Probably the only thing that annoyed me about this particular book was the love interests. Joanna is clearly a novice in the ways of love as she is with the church, and she never expected to have romantic contact with men. The dissolution of the monasteries changed all that. Joanna is now not only beautiful, but she’s an eligible romantic interest, and two men have feelings for her; Geoffrey Scoville and Brother Edmund, a former monk. Because I had no real background without reading The Crown, I wasn’t able to see how these relationships developed, and I think that affected how I perceived them in this book. Plus, I felt like one in particular pretty much forced himself at her more than once when she wasn’t too thrilled about it, which meant I was not his biggest fan.
Still, though, I really enjoyed reading The Chalice and I can only imagine that I’d have liked it even more if I’d read The Crown, too. I definitely recommend that you start there, but it looks like Nancy Bilyeau is an author to watch.
All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.