Kindle Edition, 284 pg.
Read: January 17-20, 2019
“You mean evil spirits, black magic, that sort of thing?” Sylvia asked. As can happen when unexpected doors are opened in the mind by experiences one lacks the vocabulary for, Sylvia found herself both believing and not believing what her mother was saying to her. She felt in her gut that it was the truth, but her rational mind was doggedly resisting it.
Sylvia is a Religious Studies teacher at a prestigious school (that is in danger of losing its luster), a single mother to a teenage son, the daughter of a fun character with a mysterious past and the possessor of a ring made by a legendary British alchemist. The book chronicles Sylvia’s exploration of the ring’s history and abilities while she tries to find stability in her teaching career, particularly in her new position.
I really appreciated the relationship between Rusty (her son) and Svetlana (her mother), and think it’s probably the strongest part of the novel. I’m not sure all their comedic antics were worth the time (or, at least I’m not sure they were that comedic), but their presence added a lot to this.
You could be forgiven if you walked away from this book thinking it was about the trials and travails of a decent woman (and some allies) working for a lazy, corrupt, and dictatorial school administration. At various times, the school storylines reminded me of recent works by Lisa Lutz, Richard Russo, I. M. Nemo, and Paul Goldstein. And had that been the sum of what this book is about, with a little bit of a family story on the side, I’d have very likely been satisfied (and it wouldn’t take much to edit the fantasy elements out of the book to give us this).
That’s because Blanchard brings the fantasy elements into this novel with a subtle, delicate touch—so subtle it’d be easy to miss at times. I’m honestly torn about this—on the one hand, I really appreciate this move. Its incumbent on the reader to decide, is there magic at work, or should our “rational minds…doggedly resist…” the idea? On the other hand, there’s part of me that thinks if I’m reading a book where magic happens, I shouldn’t have to wonder if I just read about it.
If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have thought that the author of The Tainted Vintage wrote this, the voices are so distinct. Wizard Ring is told in a rambling, circuitous style that will probably appeal to many readers who will find it charming and chatty (although I found it frequently frustrating and occasionally redundant).
At the end of the day, your appreciation for this book is going to come down to what you think of Blanchard’s approach to the magic involved—if you find the subtlety and hints appealing, you’ll likely enjoy this singular take on fantasy in a contemporary setting.
My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.