I should have gone back and re-read at least part of The Crown before starting The Chalice. It took me a few chapters to re-orient myself into Joanna Stafford's world of Tudor intrigue. The cast of characters, their competing conspiracies and goals, became quite a tangle until I settled into the story properly. Once it got going, I was sucked in though. There are stretches of decidedly grim (if not grisly) conspiracies and events. I Tweeted to the author that The Chalice should be renamed "Joanna Stafford Can't Have Nice Things." And it's true- with the convent gone, she can't have her quiet religious life, but with the threat of prophecy, and all the layers of power plays, conspiracies and various people betraying or vying to influence Joanna, she can't much have a quiet life after the convent either. As in the first book, I like her fierceness... and the humanness of her puzzlement when faced with the prophecy, and with the ways to sort out her competing obligations, loyalties and desires.I hear there's going to be a third book. While I'm eager to see how Joanna's adventures unfold, and to see whether she does, in fact, get any nice things happening, I feel that this book and its prequel were reasonably self contained.