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#64 The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop

Jared, a Shalador warlord, has spent the last nine years of his life as a pleasure slave for wicked queens. After losing his temper and killing his last queen, he is labeled as too dangerous and sent to a life of hard labor. Only while in the slave market, he catches the attention of an elderly queen whose gray jewels outrank his red. Jared begins in a long harsh journey through the mountains. He finds out that his new mistress, The Gray Lady, isn’t quite what she seems, and neither are many of the slaves who travel with him. They will have to ban together to survive the trip, especially to survive the dangers set for them by the high priestess Dorthea SaDiablo and her captain of the guard.

The Invisible Ring is a stand alone prequel set in the same universe as Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy. Two major characters from the trilogy make an appearance, and others are mentioned in passing, but for the most part it’s a completely new story with new characters, making it accessible to both new and old readers of the Black Jewels universe. One thing I like the best about the Black Jewels books is the world building that takes place here. Bishops has created a dark world filled with strict hierarchies, a complex matriarchal rule, interesting magic, and much tension between the sexes. Although it’s been five years since I first picked up the trilogy, I found that I could easily ease myself back into it.

As far as quality goes, The Invisible Ring isn’t as consistent as the original trilogy, but it does stand head and shoulders above another stand alone novel, Tangled Webs. Jared makes an interesting hero, especially when seen in contrast with Dorthea’s captain of the guard, Krelis. The narrative is split between the two men, and it’s interesting to watch Jared’s rise from slavery when paired with Krelis decent into evil as he further commits to Dorthea’s will. Some of the secondary characters, such as Blaed and black widow Thayra, are also interesting, but I have to admit that there were so many minor male characters, that I had a hard time telling between them. Lia was a nice romantic interest, and I really enjoyed the tension between her and Jared. For the most part, I liked her character, but there were a few times that she felt a bit like a Jaenelle stand in.

As far as the writing goes, Bishop certainly has a flare for the dramatic, which can make for many exciting action sequences, and compelling romance. It also means that she does not hold back on the gore and sexual abuse, which makes The Invisible Ring inappropriate for some readers. The story moves along at a comfortable pace and is very easy to read, although somewhat predictable. There are a few things that got on my nerves (for instance, all of the penis/testicle references in the early chapters. Yes they’re a sensual culture! We get that! Also, there were far too many moments where Jared grabs Lia in frustration and accidentally hurts her.), but on a whole the book was a nice read. If you’ve read the Black Jewels trilogy and would like to continue reading about this world, I would recommend this more than Tangled Webs.

(Note: I read the audiobook version so I’m not sure I’ve spelled all of the names here right! Please let me know if I’ve misspelled any so I can correct that.)

Rating: four stars
Length: 352 pages
Source: theaudiolibrary 
TBR Pile: 144 books
Similar Books: Lynn Flewelling’s darker books (apparently, the two women are friends), and of course the other Black Jewels books
Other books I've read by this book: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness, Dreams Made Flesh, Tangled Webs, Sebastian

xposted to bookish  and temporaryworlds 
Tags: xxx author last name: a-h
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