As Wyrd & Wonder winds down I am in the mood for standalones. Surfing my audiobook library I happened to stumble across this absolute gem of a book. The Spirit Ring is a deceptively simple fantasy full of magic, humor, kobolds, and taking power in whatever form your status allows. From ghost dads to corpse buoys and kobolds, let’s just jump right in
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Spirit Ring
- Series: N/A
- Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
- Publisher & Release: Baen, 1992
- Length: 369 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of fantasy
A quick note on the Audio: running 13.25 from Blackstone Audio, 2019. Narrated by Grover Gardner. Total 5⭐ experience
Here’s the synopsis:
In an alternate Renaissance Italy where the church regulates magic and licenses magicians, fiery Fiametta Beneforte wants to be more than her goldsmith-mage father’s unpaid apprentice. But when the Duchy of Montefoglia is laid under military and magical siege, she unexpectedly must join with Thur Ochs, a young Swiss miner and foundryman, to tap their skills in both metalwork and necromancy to rescue her father’s soul and combat an evil sorcerer
This is easily one of my favorite reads of the year so far. It takes a good look at how magic would have fared in the time of the Renaissance era, within the church, putting sanctioned white magic crafters against black magic users and necromancers. How are women treated in this world? How does class limit someone’s reach in life? Is magic written in Latin so only the learned and upper class people have access to it?
But she wasn’t a man and she doubted she’d get ten paces with a sword in her hand. Not man but true mage. If God wanted to damn her for using the only strength he’d given her, that was God’s choice
There are lots of good themes running through this that are appropriate to the historical time period. The magic is fairly simple and I think it makes sense as far as how the church would have tried to control it’s use. Some of the necromancy parts get pretty dark and it’s more of what I am looking for when I pick up books like this.
I’ve heard the prose described as “stiff” and I can understand that, but the book is funny as all hell and had some of the actual best moments. There’s a whole sequence of Swiss Army Man in book form when Thur is trying to get his brothers corpse out of a window, across the river, down the road … it’s ghastly hilarious and Bujold has a serious talent at imagery plus dry humor to create a wonderful effect.
He has a sudden picture of himself: a naked Swiss madman carrying a corpse. Well he had nothing to attract a robber certainly
The ending also had me rolling despite the kind of sadness to it all. I think that once you get past the first two chapters which introduce the main characters, the book takes off and becomes quite a delightful read. Both points of view are told equally well so that I never minded if I was reading Fiametta or Thur.
A strong female lead, a miner who ends up being pretty brave after all, and even the Abbott who surprised me at the end are all great characters. I love the obstinate old horse, trying to balk and eat grass while a battle is taking place 😂
The conflict is believable, the action constant, the kobolds something that you don’t see every day. Oh the kobolds! I need more kobolds in fantasy please
Overall, this is really a great little book and of course Grover Gardner adds a stunning narration. His voices are awesome and the humor or gravity radiates in his voice. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this as much on page but I think I would have.
The Ring! Of course! Damn – I mean God bless me, that’s what it was
My last thought, as someone who’s lost their dad and can now appreciate ghost dads, is that I freaking love Prospero. He meant well for Fiametta and I love that even in the afterlife he was looking out for her and stayed snarky as ever. I’d like to have seen Fiametta grieving a little more but I think she will when the shock wears off.
Overall: simple on the outside but full of great themes and humor to balance the darkness. A tale of occupation in renaissance times based loosely on the life of Benvenuto Cellini. My first Bujold but definitely not my last. If people are describing this as one of her “lesser” works, I need all the “better” ones now!
Thanks for checking out my audio and book review of The Spirit Ring by Louis McMaster Bujold. I purchased my audiobook on Chirp and I’m definitely buying myself a hard copy for my collection. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️