Several months ago the Chalice of Willowlands passed to Marisol. This was so unexpected for the simple woodsright and beekeeper that even with honey flowing ankle-deep and her goats needing to be milked several times a day, she still found it difficult to believe when the authorities came to inform her of what had happened. Of course it didn’t help that the authorities themselves found it hard to believe, or that the entire demesne of Willowlands was in chaos following the death of its Master and the previous Chalice, who had left neither Heir nor apprentice behind.
Marisol’s abrupt elevation to Chalice – and her frantic attempts to learn what she needs to know – pale beside the strangeness of the new Master. The previous Master’s brother, he has been called back from the depths of Elemental Fire in an attempt to keep an outblood Master – and the ensuing chaos that always results when the land rejects the outblood – from taking over. The Master is not entirely human any longer, having been too far immersed in Fire. But can an entirely untried and uneducated Chalice and a Master who cannot touch another person without burning them to the bone manage to calm the lands and magic of Willowlands without utter disaster?
This was a good, entertaining work, though I felt that it was not as strong as some of Robin McKinley’s previous books. The worldbuilding was excellent, as always, but the characters were never as empathetic as I wanted them to be. This may have been in part because the author wanted to emphasize the inhuman aspect of the Master. I predicted the final outcome of the climax almost as soon as the characters were introduced. Despite that, though, I wanted the book to go on longer. I was interested in the world itself, and wanted to know more about the implications of a honey Chalice and using honey to work what was essentially magic (though no one called it that.)