In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era. In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. Joanna realises the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the centre of these deadly prophecies…
A while ago I read Bilyeau's debut novel "The Crown" and was hugely impressed, which was a bit of a big thing for someone who was suffering with Tudor Fatigue. So when I was approached to review her second book, I jumped at the chance. The Chalice follows on with Joanna Stafford's story, and is set during the torrid period of the Reformation.
I don't want to give too much away and spoil the story for people (because if there's one thing I myself don't like, it's spoilers!), but Joanna finds herself involved in yet more conspiracies to try and bring the True Faith back to England. It involves visits to famous seers - and I will mention just one name; Sister Elizabeth Barton - and yet again prophecy plays a huge role in the story. It really is a story full of both political and religious twists which prove for riveting reading. We see the return of characters we have both loved (Joanna Stafford, the monks and nuns of Dartford priory and everyone's favourite constable, Geoffrey) and hated (Gardiner) as well as many new faces including Catherine Howard!
As in The Crown, Bilyeau's writing style means that the story reads almost flawlessly. The narrative really makes the reader throw themselves into the story, and makes it so the book is really difficult to put down. I was really very impressed with Bilyeau's writing (As I was in The Crown), and honestly can't recommend this book highly enough. There is just one thing about the story that really niggled me though, and that was the constant mention of the Borgias and their poisoning technique - as it would do, considering as how that family are my specialism and I'm always found fighting their corner - it was really difficult for me to put myself in the situation that those in the sixteenth century would have been in. Anti-Borgia propaganda would have been prevalent back then, and the myths that the family were corrupt poisoners would have been rife. Still, every mention of their evil riled me up a little (a lot), but I can let it pass given how people would have thought back then (I know its a niggly point, but I can't help it).
All in all, an absolutely fantastic read and one I would wholeheartedly recommend! Please do check it out! I'll be looking out for her next book with interest!
The Chalice can be found on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
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