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The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Spirit Ring (original 1992; edition 2000)

by Lois McMaster Bujold

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1,111187,443 (3.54)24
Title:The Spirit Ring
Authors:Lois McMaster Bujold
Info:Baen (2000), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Reviewed, ebooks
Tags:fiction, novel, fantasy, historical fantasy, historical fiction, Renaissance Italy, Switzerland, kobolds, magic, young adult, romance, dark fantasy, alternate history, necromancy, Renaissance

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The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold (1992)

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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. ( )
  fyrefly98 | May 27, 2017 |
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and I’ve been hoarding her remaining books because I don’t really want to get to a point where I have no more new Bujold books to read. I succumbed to THE SPIRIT RING this week, though.

THE SPIRIT RING is a pretty straightfoward fantasy story set in Renaissance Italy. Fiametta’s life shatters when she and her mage/artisan father are caught up in the squabbles between two dukedoms, and now she has to find a way to free her town from the invading duke before he is able to use black magic (using her father) to cement his hold on it.

As always with Bujold, the characters have complex emotions and pretty much leap off the page. Fiametta is sad and very scared, but she’s also somewhat relieved by having to fend for herself, having constantly been judged as less capable because of her gender. She’s determined and stubborn, but realistic – she knows exactly how powerless she is as a multiracial woman without a protector. I liked that her story was told in a way that seemed historically accurate to the options that she would have in that time, but it did so without making Fiametta seem any less capable.

Fiametta’s father is another great character; he’s a true Renaissance man – master craftsman and amateur scientist (but with magic), flamboyant and selfish, definitely not the best father, but still very proud of his daughter. Every character in this book is just a person (another thing I love about all of Bujold’s work!), even the occupying “evil” duke and his black-magic using assistant are just people with their own hopes and dreams (albeit ones that are not good for the rest of society), and like most people, they’re usually pretty amiable when their life isn’t being affected directly.

Bujold is great at subtle romances – usually her characters just recognize a similar kind of competence in each other, and at some point realize that they should just join forces. THE SPIRIT RING does this, but with a healthy addition of Fiametta and Thur’s teenage hormones. Thur is fantastic, and his down to earth practicality matches Fiametta’s temperament very well. I’d love to read a book set a couple of decades later to see how they’ve grown together. ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
This tale could be cast in the mold of "plucky girl hero saves the world" but with our young heroine's rage and willingness to bend the rules to get what she needs, it's a strangely strong story that quietly breaks many of the rules we quietly have about stories told about young heroes and women. Here is a heroine who doesn't feel guilt or uncertainty about her power and intelligence and rages against having to hide it, who gets angry, who doesn't follow the rules and this doesn't lead to downfall and repentance but rather to success. This is a quietly subversive story wrapped in a traditional fantasy mold. Sure, it's maybe not the epics and maybe isn't as full-package clever as her later works, but it's a surprising gem for its genre. ( )
  terriko | Sep 4, 2016 |
Probably more like 2.5 stars. I've enjoyed some of Bujold's other fantasy and sci-fi novels but this one seemed a bit dated for me. Maybe it just reminds me of books I read when I was younger. Also having a young female protagonist made it feel more like it was for teen girls than 43 year-old men.I also tend to like fantasy better if it's NOT set in the "real world" it makes the magic and other fantastic elements more believable for some reason.

I like the ending climactic battle, but got bored a lot before that. I would recommend "The Curse of Chalion|61886" instead if you want to read something in the fantasy genre from Bujold. ( )
  ragwaine | Dec 2, 2013 |
Fairly standard "plucky girl" fantasy but with a nice mix of Bujold humour. ( )
1 vote SChant | Apr 26, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lois McMaster Bujoldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eggleton, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hickman, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fiametta turned the lump of warm reddish clay in her hand.
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Also published as Fiametta's Ring.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671578707, Mass Market Paperback)

Fiametta Beneforte dreamed of making beautiful and enchanted objets d'art, but alas her magician-goldsmith father was more likely to have her scrub the kiln than study magic. After all, it was a waste to train a mere daughter beyond the needs of the moment.

Thur Ochs dreamed of escaping the icy mines of Bruinwald. But the letter from his brother Uri arranging his apprenticeship to Master Beneforte was not the only force that drew him over the mountains to the Duchy of Montefoglia...

A betrayal at a banquet plunges Thur and Fiametta into a struggle against men who would use vile magic for vile ends. Needs of this desperate moment will require all their wits, all their talents, and all their courage, if they are to rescue both Montefoglia and the souls of those they most love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When her father, a goldsmith and master mage, dies during the siege of their Italian village, fifteen-year-old Fiametta finds her own fledgling magic tested in the ensuing battle against the evil Lord Ferrante.

(summary from another edition)

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