Book Review: The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop

Title: The Invisible Ring

Author:  Anne Bishop

Publisher: Roc

Publication Date:  June 3, 2008

Genres: Epic Fantasy

Shelves: Female-fronted, Female-dominant

It's been 20 years since I last ventured into the realm of Black Jewels. Two decades during which I aged (reluctantly) and matured (gracefully) into the kind of man who holds a whole new fascination with and appreciation for the world that Anne Bishop has created. Were there not 6 books waiting for me, with a new book - The Queen's Bargain - coming next March, I would love to go back and revisit that opening trilogy, but if I have any hope of catching up before Spring, I must continue forward.

On the surface, The Invisible Ring is an old-fashioned fantasy that tells the tale of an epic journey, complete with a frustrated romance at its heart, and it does that very well. It is a dangerous journey through dense forests and tiny villages, with the travelers facing dangers at every turn as well as betrayal from within. While the pace is measured, filled more with confrontations than frantic chases, the tension is largely unrelenting, until it finally reaches a climax where everything is on the line.

Beneath that surface . . . well, there's a lot going on. This mainstream, mass-market epic fantasy novel has more to say about the BDSM power exchange (particularly submission versus slavery), female-led and female-dominant relationships (including how they differ and where they overlap), and the many nuances of sexuality (from virgin trepidation to rutting lust) than most erotica, and I dare say it does so more smartly and with greater significance. There is so more story and emotion wrapped up in Jared/Lia and Blaed/Thera in this single volume than many epic fantasies can handle in a trilogy.

Perhaps the best thing about waiting two decades to descend once again into the jewels is that I was able to enjoy this as a standalone story, without being under the shadow of the original trilogy, and without the weight of expectations attached to being a prequel. The Invisible Ring was the perfect means of reacquainting myself with the world, and the Dreams Made Flesh collection now calls even louder from the shelf.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2