Day 345: The Chalice

Cover for The ChaliceI am not sure why I found this novel so irritating. Possibly it is because it is a sequel, but nowhere on the cover is that indicated, and this novel is definitely one that requires knowledge of the previous book, which I have not read.

Joanna Stafford is a former Dominican novice after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. At the beginning of the novel she is in Canterbury with some ex-monks about to commit some serious act, but then the action turns back several months.

Joanna is living in Dartford with her young cousin and her friends Brother Edmund and Sister Winifred, a former monk and nun who are sister and brother. Some of the townspeople are suspicious of the former residents of the priory, but Joanna has plans to continue there and set up a loom to weave tapestries.

Soon, however, her cousins Gertrude and Henry Courtenay arrive to invite her and her cousin Arthur for a visit. Little does Joanna know that Gertrude is aware that Joanna is the subject of a prophecy, which a group of Catholics believe will save Catholicism in England. Apparently, in the previous novel she received a prophecy and was told she would learn it in full after she received three prophecies. Since her family was destroyed as the result of a prophecy, however, she has promised never to dabble in it again. She is soon subject to immense pressure from Gertrude Courtenay and others, including the Lady Mary Tudor and the Spanish ambassador Chapuys, to see a seer.

The novel does not seem very coherent. Joanna is told she must hear the prophecies of her own free will, yet all kinds of pressures and threats are applied to make her hear them. She is refusing to hear the prophecy, then she isn’t. Then we go through the same thing with the next prophecy. Some of her decisions seem completely unlikely for a person who is extremely religious and was previously a novice. At one point in the book she throws herself at two different men within the space of weeks.

It takes an incredibly long time to feel certain that we’ve learned of everything revealed in the first book–new facts keep popping up until nearly halfway through the volume. This is not a stand-alone novel by any means. Whether it would be more satisfying for someone who has read the first book I cannot answer.

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