THE CHALICE by Nancy Bilyeau


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A historical novel set during the time of Henry VIII.

It opens in Canterbury in 1528, when the heroine, Joanna Stafford, is only 17 and her mother, worried about her daughter’s health, pretends to take her to benefit from healing waters there. In fact, it is her mother’s desire to have her daughter meet a woman with the gift of prophecy, a woman who is the first to see the role Joanna is destined to play in the future of the ongoing conflict between the crown and the cross. Her mother had come from Spain with Katherine of Aragon and married into an English family related to the Tudors. Because an uncle, the Duke of Buckingham, had been executed for treason after soliciting prophetic information about the death and heirs of King Henry, Joanna prefers to obey the command of her cousin to never solicit the knowledge or advice of seers. Her mother’s distress, however, moves her, and she pays attention to the first of what will be three seers who reveal, in progressive parts, her ultimate destiny. The next chapter moves us to Dartford in 1538, at which time we see Joanna as a nun whose beauty inspires an uncomfortable lust in the men who meet her. Thereafter, Joanna, who would like to start a tapestry weaving business, continues to deny and resist her ultimate destiny but eventually, after an agonizing period of indecision, gives in and agrees to travel to Ghent (the birthplace of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) to meet with the third seer.

Joanna’s interest in weaving tapestries is an appropriate analogy for this layered book of historical suspense.

Pub Date: March 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0865-2
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2013


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