I am rereading Chalice, for the first time, after some time since my first reading.
And it is amazing me. Here is a book that is a maze to get into because it is full of the ways situations can be impossible, and life can be dreadful through a maze of little things.
And this is not something fantasy usually deals with.
It’s a book about the suddenness of having to Become…an analogy for being an adult maybe, but more an analogy of any taking up of a role you weren’t ready for. A working girl. A father. A governor.
Because I am intuitively reconstructing what I had trouble putting together the first time, I’m not distracted. I remembered it being a lot about a girl just doing her best, and meaning well, and that being powerful. Like a grown-up version of Wizard’s Hall.
I did remember how it seemed to take McKinley’s parentheticals to a new height. But it’s also grounded in a different way than her earlier books set in the traditional country setting.
McKinley’s always loved the flora and fauna, the real work of the country, but from her gardening and life in England (even just her maturity), it’s taken on a depth, a texture, that is even more genuine.
I think the first time I read this I was depressed and overwhelmed enough that the catharsis wasn’t really noticeable—my distance now from the headspace Chalice is in makes me much more appreciative of her quiet heroics. And the slender but growing line of her connection with the Master. It’s really artfully done. And it is probably one of McKinley’s best fantasies (though there are a couple I still haven’t read), in being a story about just about humanity while being set in a fairy-tale sort of world.