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Fans and new readers alike will greedily devour McKinley's latest, a high fantasy as perfectly shaped and eloquently told as Beauty and The Hero and the Crown. Humble beekeeper Mirasol has been chosen to take on the key ceremonial role of Chalice, the woman charged with maintaining the province's well-being by communicating with the (sentient) land. She is keenly aware of the suffering brought on by the misrule of its former Master: "[The province] Willowlands was restless, hurt and unhappy... delirious as a child with a bad fever." Hope flickers when the former Master's brother returns and assumes the role; but because he is now an Elemental priest of Fire, he may not be able to perform the duties. Mirasol and the new Master are drawn to each other, even though she suspects their union is prohibited, and their smoldering attraction-plus the gorgeously evoked magic and the escalating threat that Willowlands will be usurped-gives this tale its sizzle. In the best McKinley fashion, the fantasy realm is evoked in thorough and telling detail, with the energy of the narrative lending excitement to descriptions of even the most stylized rituals. A lavish and lasting treat. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.