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Lois McMaster Bujold – The Spirit Ring

July 27, 2016

Bujold, Lois McMaster - The Spirit Ring - 40017. The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold (1992)

Read By: Jessica Almasy
Length: 12h 27min (384 pages)

Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fantasy

Started: 22 April 2016
Finished: 14 May 2016

Where did it come from? Audible.
Why do I have it? Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite authors, and this is (to my knowledge) her only standalone, and the only of her books I haven’t read.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 02 April 2016.

Magic and metal
can combine for evil when
there’s a ghost involved.

Summary: Young Fiametta is the daughter to Prospero, the most famous magician/goldsmith in Montefoglia. Thur is a miner in Bruinwald, who, after a cave-in in the mines, is sent by his mother to seek apprentice as a metalsmith in the city. But before he gets there, the city is overthrown by Ferrante, who was originally betrothed to the Duke’s daughter. But the Duke is killed, and Ferrante now rules the city with the aid of the powerful magic – a soul entrapped in a ring and thus enslaved to him. Prospero, who dies in the aftermath of the coup, is now in danger of the same fate – Ferrante wants to claim his body, and thus his unshriven soul, for a spirit ring made of such a powerful magician would give him unprecedented power – and it’s up to a young girl and a untried metalsmith to stop him… somehow.

Review: I love Lois McMaster Bujold – she’s one of my favorite authors – but this book (one of her earlier efforts, I believe) didn’t entirely work for me. There are individual scenes that are quite good, and quite vivid – the cave-in in the mine early on, and the big confrontation at the end, in particular – and Bujold’s sense of humor is present throughout, although maybe not as pronounced as it is in many of her other books. However, I felt like there were a lot of elements to this story, and that they didn’t really all fit together satisfactorily. For example, the magical tricks of the priest, the bits with the Duke’s wife and daughter, Thur’s ability to find things, all of them played their role in the story, but weren’t as well developed or as organically integrated as they could have been. The love story between Fiametta and Thur, in particular, felt somewhat forced — I get that it has a magical element, but it went from “oh hey you’re the daughter of the guy that was supposed to give me work” to “you are my everything and I will gladly repeatedly risk my life for you” without Fiametta really having done much to deserve it (she’s on the youngish side, and kind of bratty to go with it.) Part of this might have been the narrator – she sounded really young, and I wasn’t overly impressed with her reading – she did an okay job distinguishing the characters, but her voice acting wasn’t great, and she mispronounced several words (things that someone should have caught, like “awl” or “draught”) that really broke the flow for me. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I read it because I’m a completist, and if (like me) you’re a LMB fan and you’ve run out of other books to read, this isn’t great, but has its good moments and kept me interested throughout. But if you’re new to Bujold, this is far from the best that she has to offer – try The Curse of Chalion or Beguilement for fantasy or Shards of Honor or The Warrior’s Apprentice for sci-fi instead.

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First Line: Fiametta turned the lump of warm reddish clay in her hand.

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