Book Review: The Spirit Ring

A month in and I’m already slacking. Mmm.

This week’s book report is The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold, who you may know from the awesome Vorkosigan saga or the Chalion series. The Spirit Ring was Bujold’s first foray into Fantasy back in the day. If you approach it directly after a Vorkosigan book you may be mildly disappointed. Though I doubt Bujold could write a bad book, it just lacks some of the oomph of her others and the mad characters we’re used to.

The Spirit Ring is the story of a girl living in an Italian city-state sometime in medieval times. But there’s magic, curated by the Catholic Church. Mercedes Lackey readers will be familiar with the magical-historical setting. The girl’s father, a renowned sculptor/goldsmith, indulges her magical talent, allowing her to make a magical ring, though it’s not really appropriate for girls to be doing such things. Enter the bad guy, who shows up, wines and dines and takes over the town suddenly and with great violence. Oh, and he has a magical ring that has the spirit of some person in it, but that ring is broken in the putsch, so he has to make a new one. The guy that broke the ring has a brother, toiling in the mines, who has decided to come down out of the mountains to see if his brother can give him a job. The brother and the girl meet and through a series of harrowing events try to save the spirits of her father and his brother from being ensorceled into the ring.

Temptation and the choice of using power for good or evil are ongoing as the story ultimately ends up being a battle between a fallen priest and his rival, the abbot of a nearby monastery; and how Thur and Fiametta will live their lives faced with the temptations their magical powers give them.

Bujold’s characters are always well-written and this book is no exception. But somehow, this story doesn’t quite live up to the Chalion or the Vorkosigan series. I don’t even know why, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but there’s nothing spectacularly right either. It’s okay. Something to read on a Sunday afternoon when nothing else is going on. Perhaps my expectations are too high, given her other work.

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