By Robin McKinley
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
In this quietly compelling fantasy, the quiet beekeeper Mirasol has lately been named as Chalice, the one who helps bind and calm the earthlines on the manor. The earthlines affect all of nature in their realm. Usually the Chalice has been an apprentice for years, but after the sudden deaths of both Willowlands' Master and Chalice, there was no one to take up the mantle and the earthlines are unsettled. But as Mirasol struggles to learn about and fulfill her new role, it is nothing compared to the new Master. He has been recalled from seven years training as an Elemental priest of Fire and is no longer quite...human. But with the help of her bees and honey, Mirasol begins to get her feet under her and to slowly win the respect of the manor's people. But everyone still seems to fear the Master, and when a shocking challenge is made to his right to hold the manor, Mirasol realizes she has to choose who to support and who to save. Ultimately, someone must be sacrificed to save Willowlands...but who shall it be? Deeply rooted in nature and lovingly written, readers will sympathize with Mirasol and be drawn into the characters and the hard decisions they must make to do what is right, even if they may fail. Good stuff! Fans of McKinley's other works will not be disappointed.