2013 mar 5-7, 2nd reread, 4 stars
: I suddenly felt like re-reading this one, even though I remembered that I found the 2nd half dragging upon my first re-read. I always think this book is better than it actually is, and every time I get to the last 2/3, I always feel like rushing through it because it has just gone on long enough already! McKinley's prose is lovely, but it's so circular and repetitive that I get tired close to the end.
This time, though, I found the worldbuilding very much complete-- I bet McKinley has it all in her head but not all of it gets into the book because it is told from Mirasol's perspective, and she doesn't need to explain everything because they are very normal to her. This book is about Mirasol's personal journey from small woodskeeper to Chalice, this is a very character-driven book, so we do not need to know about the setting beyond what is necessary for Mirasol's story. Although I would very much have liked to. I doubt McKinley would ever write it, but I would love more stories within this world, perhaps about other characters.
*2010, 3 stars
: I thought this book was both confusing and compelling, since it starts in the middle of the story and as you read along, what happened before is slowly revealed through flashbacks and memories. It's fine as a technique to tell a story, but the problem I found with this particular novel is that frankly, I felt as if nothing much happened in the first half. It's mostly explanations of the world and introducing the characters but this is done using lengthy, albeit with lush, descriptions rather than action. There are also paragraphs and paragraphs detailing the main character's beekeeping activities which where unnecessarily long. In short, the first half of the book often seems like a rambling mess. However, the action starts in the second half and the book becomes much more interesting.
McKinley uses an understated writing style where she gives hints and clues as to what's going on, but never fully explains anything, preferring the reader to figure it out for themselves. I found this both frustrating and intriguing, as it kept me reading in hopes that certain things would be made a bit clearer. I don't think it's necessary for an author to explain everything, but she could have given us just a bit more about the fantasy world she created. The world-building felt incomplete, and McKinley hints at a lot of interesting ideas but never truly develops them. I did like how the relationship between Mirasol and the Master was handled, and thought the ending for them made perfect sense, even if it was a bit of a surprise. Still, there is much more to be desired with this book and it's just a shame that McKinley chose to spend more time writing in unnecessary detail about the habits of bees rather than showing us more of her world and characters.