The Spirit Ring

The Spirit Ring - Lois McMaster Bujold I feel this book a bit underated. May not be the kind of book I'd like to reread, but it's imaginative and well done. I think it suffers from comparisons with Bujold's other books. I don't agree with those who say this is her worst book, although it comes early among her works and I think Bujold's one of those authors that got stronger over the years. Nevertheless, I like this more than say Ethan of Athos or Falling Free in her Vorkosigan series or The Hallowed Hunt in her Chalion series. But it's true that I don't find the characters in this book as vivid and complex as Miles in the Vorkosigan series or Ista of Paladin of Souls or Dag of Sharing Knife. It's also the one novel of Bujold's to date that's a standalone. And it's the rare historical fantasy--which is a lot of what I like about it, but is a departure from the Space Opera of the Vorkosigan series or High Fantasy of Chalion--or Sharing Knife with it's feel of the American frontier of perhaps the far future. The Spirit Ring is recognizably set in late 15th century Renaissance Italy. The time of Lorenzo Medici, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. It's not set in Florence or Rome though but the made-up small dukedom of Montefoglia in a world where white magic is sanctioned and overseen by the Church--and black magic is a real danger. A world of mage-artisans who can make magical rings. And the heroine, 15-year-old Fiametta Beneforte, is the daughter and unofficial apprentice of such a master mage. Then the duchy is imperiled by black magic and that's where Fiametta--and the young miner Thur Ochs--must take risks to free it and those they love who are are at risk of their very souls. It's a well-written and obviously well-researched work and I very much enjoyed the read.