Library Book Sale Finds: The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold

I know I did one of these, like, last week, and I apologize for reading library book sale books so close together. Except not really.

So, as I mentioned about a month ago, I bought this book to read for my Twitter book club, and then found it in my library book sale books. I suspect I picked it up because I have several friends who are obsessed with Bujold’s Vorkosigan series (of which I have read an omnibus called Cordelia’s Honor and nothing more). This is her first fantasy novel.

Title: The Spirit Ring
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publication Year: 1992

Pros: Interesting characters that you care about, cool magic
Cons: Slow plot build which culminates rather quickly

So, apparently Bujold used actual historical events/people for the inspiration for this novel, which is kind of cool. It takes place in Italy in what’s probably the late Renaissance. The main characters are Fiametta Beneforte, the daughter of a metalsmith/mage, and Thur Ochs, a Swiss miner. Most of the action revolves around the city of Montefoglia, where Fiametta lives, which has been taken over by an invading force when the Lord of Losimo kills the duke instead of marrying his daughter as planned.

The magic system here is very interesting. It’s mostly based off of “real” magics from the time period, though in a more traditional fantasy bent. For example, the Church oversees the mages to make sure they’re not performing black magic. While the magic is essential to the plot, it works well with the world and seems very reasonable. Historical fantasy can be hard to do well, but Bujold manages both the history and the fantasy parts well.

While I found I liked both Thur and Fiametta, the plot moves along fairly slowly. There’s a lot of reacting and forced inaction. The build up to and the climax felt a little fast, but I can’t be sure whether it really is, or if it’s because it took me three weeks to get through the first two-thirds of the book, and then I read the rest in one day.

So! If you like historical fantasy and/or ’90s fantasy, you’ll probably like this. I found it a little slow, which is why it took me so long to get through it, but that’s just me.

Read The Spirit Ring, Squiders? What did you think?

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