A Review of The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau (UK Cover)

Synopsis: In the midst of England’s Reformation, a young novice will risk everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.

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 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

Nancy Bilyeau

Having read and loved Nancy Bilyeau’s acclaimed debut novel, The Crown, I was excited when the sequel, The Chalice, landed on my doorstep. I wondered whether it would be as engrossing as its predecessor —the answer, a resounding yes—Bilyeau’s knack for weaving an enthralling tale and building suspense, had me at the opening line:

‘Before the lash of the wind drew blood, before I felt it first move through the air, our horses knew that something was coming.’

Set during the Reformation, The Chalice continues the story of Joanna Stafford who finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy against Henry VIII, while on a quest to return England to the Catholic faith. I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing details of the many unexpected twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end, but can assure you that the complex fictional and historical characters, intricate storyline and masterful storytelling make this a riveting page-turner.

Those of you that value well-researched historical fiction will love The Chalice. Bilyeau most certainly knows her stuff and brings England during the Reformation to life in vivid detail.

Another tell-tale sign of great historical fiction is its ability to rouse interest in the real historical figures and events, another tick for Bilyeau, The Chalice had me reaching for my history books, newly inspired to find out more about monastic life in Tudor England. It was also satisfyingly thought provoking and insightful, not often do we see the Reformation from the inside, and from the perspective of those it affected the most.

In summary, highly recommended!

(Click here for your chance to win an autographed copy of The Chalice. Hurry, giveaway ends on 4 July 2013!)

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  1. I just finished this book! I really like its labyrinthine story line. I can’t wait for the final installment of the trilogy to release!

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