Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel, The Crown, released last year. (my review) Newly released is the second book in this series, The Chalice.
The Crown introduced us to Joanna Stafford, a novice nun, in 1537 Tudor England. I was immediately captured by the character of Joanna in this first book, as well as Bilyeau's use of this time period as her setting.
The Chalice picks up where The Crown left off (but new readers would be able to start with this book - a flashback chapter provides the needed background)
It is a year later and the country is being torn apart by a power struggle between the King and the Church. Despite wanting nothing more than to live a quiet life, Joanna discovers that she herself must play a role in determining the outcome in the clash between Henry VIII and the Church. Her role in the country's future was foretold by a seer when she was still a young novice. And that seer also predicted that Joanna would hear two more prophecies from two other sages.
Bilyeau has again proven what a stellar researcher she is. I am not overly familiar with this time period and often found myself heading to the computer to follow up on characters and historical facts. Bilyeau has done a fantastic job of weaving a fictional tale and the past together. The time period, the settings and the descriptions are just as much a character in the story as is Joanna. The prose are rich and full, immersing the reader in this tumultuous time period.
Joanna continues to be a character that intrigues me. She is torn between her loyalties - to her country, her King, her family and her church. But in The Chalice she is also forced to look at her own desires - she has fallen in love. She is a stubborn, courageous woman determined to do what she must. Can this young woman truly alter the course of history or her own destiny?
"Destiny. There is a destiny one creates. And there is a destiny ordained."
Bilyeau weaves together history, adventure, intrigue and yes, romance to create a second tale that historical fiction fans will love. I look forward to the the next book in this series - Joanna's story is far from finished.