In The Chalice, the reader is transported back to the England of 1528, a country before the Reformation. The story centers on protagonist Joanna Stafford’s challenge to find her place in the world after the dissolution of her priory and her quest to fulfill her destiny. The Chalice follows on from a previous book, The Crown, by the same author, but each story is independent of the other.
Joanna’s parents are a wealthy English Nobleman and a Spanish woman who came to England as a maid of honour to Katherine of Aragon. Joanna too has been to court as a maid of honour to the queen, arriving on the day Henry VIII asked Katharine of Aragon for an annulment; Joanna leaves court that same day after being attacked by George Boleyn, the brother of Anne, the future Queen. This attack causes Joanna to sink into a depression, and her mother takes her to a convent where a nun lives who has exhibited the power to heal and foretell the future. The seer gives Joanna a prophesy, and so begins Joanna’s quest to seek out two more prophesies from two other seers to save the life of the king and to return the country to the one true faith.
The book interweaves historical fact with fiction, and this makes for an enjoyable and believable read. This was an engrossing thriller that went along at a good pace; the characters and conditions of living at that time were well described, as were the trials of being a woman at a time in history when they had few individual rights.
People familiar with the history of England and the Reformation will find this book fascinating, as it interweaves the stories of several of the most powerful men of the time, adding to the historical background of the story. The historical detail is accurate and the writing conveys a real sense to the reader of the feelings of mistrust, conspiracy, and ambition that were evident in such a turbulent time in England and Europe. The Chalice was a most enjoyable read, and I was sorry when the story ended, and would recommend this book for young adults, older readers of historical fiction, and people interested in sixteenth-century England.
- Catherine McGratton