The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

‘The Chalice’ follows on from Nancy Bilyeau’s earlier novel ‘The Crown’ and once again she has written a beautiful and completely absorbing novel. Although The Chalice has been written as a sequel, it could just as easily be read as a stand-alone novel.

It is 1538 and with the death of Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII has now been through three wives. And with the dissolution of the monasteries and priories, the nuns of Dartford priory are starting their new lives in the town of Dartford.

The general population are finding it difficult to accept ex nuns, monks and friars into their community. Joanna Stafford and the others from Dartford priory are doing their best to fit in and gain acceptance. They just want to get on with living simple quiet lives.

But for Joanna, the quiet life is elusive. Being from a noble family, her connections won’t leave her alone and, some of her relatives would like to bring Catholicism back to England (a treasonous wish). Joanna is also part of a prophesy concerning the King. Others involved with the prophesy are keen to see Joanna fulfil her part in the prophesy.

As part of the prophesy, Joanna must see three seers. Her mother took her to the first many years ago. She is determined to avoid the other two seers, but events conspire to force her to receive the remainder of the prophesy. By accepting the prophesy, she has the power to change the future of England.

There is also a lot happening in this novel with Joanna Stafford’s love life and that of other members of Dartford Priory. At one stage there is hope for a happy future for Joanna, but by the end of the book her love life is in no better shape than at the end of ‘The Crown’.

This novel was fast paced and exciting. Once again my lack of historical knowledge showed as I often couldn’t tell if a character or situation was historical or fictional. Full marks to Nancy Bilyeau for blending history and fiction so well.

The ending of the novel was left very open to allow for another novel in the series – including King Henry’s dislike of Anne of Cleves and the introduction of Catherine Howard. I can’t wait to read the next novel when it is written.

 

Book Published 2013

 

See a full list of books by Nancy Bilyeau

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