Spar With The Devil is a chase movie, a romance and excellent science fiction. There is rough sex and there is considerable violence.
I was a beta reader for this book and it was an immense pleasure to read. A contemporary setting soon shifts (by teleportation through one of those Portals mentioned in the series name) to a rugged desert landscape where our protagonists face increasing danger and have to rely on brute strength and courage. TS Bond understands this environment and it shows in the writing. There is a strong sense of reality about it, just as there is a touch of nightmare.
A sexualised story where our main characters are drawn and to some extent repelled from each other. Where actions now will have far reaching consequences. This is a hard drama, not an easy romance. The story is enlightened by flashbacks that slowly reveal how the lives of our heroes are intertwined.
A multi-layered science fiction romance with believable characters who tread a hard path. You should go read it.
This is one of my favourite bits from Wizards. Princess Esmeralda has been driving Jake nuts and so when Grimaldi delivers Jake the hairbrush he uses to chatise his apprentices, Jake sees his chance for revenge.
I picked up the heavy hairbrush and felt its weight against the palm of my hand. While I'd never use such a thing on Jenny, there was one person in the palace for which I considered it more than appropriate. For a wizard, it seems the thought can become the deed and without consciously wishing it, I found myself standing in front of Esmeralda's bed.
She woke the instant I arrived, though I could have sworn I made no sound at all. Her curtains were open and morning sunlight flooded into the room.
"Why are you here, Wizard?" Esmeralda asked irritably as she pulled her sheets higher so they were around her chin.
"How do you do that? How did you know it was me?" This weird ability of hers was beginning to wind me up. It was more than a little disconcerting.
"I know exactly where you are when you're in Salice. I know exactly what you are doing, at all times."
"You dare to lecture me about it! I have to live with it, so believe me when I say I know better than you what you mean. You woke some power in me when you gave me your lucky stones the day we met, and this curse you've bestowed will not go away."
"You see everybody in Salice?"
Esmeralda sighed in exasperation. "No Jake, the only one I ever see is you, all the time. Now tell me, what are you doing in my bedroom?"
I should have felt sorry for her, but discovering she was spying on me every second of the day, regardless of whether she wanted to or not, made me angry again. And there was still the little matter of her using me and telling everyone I was Salice's wizard. I swung the hairbrush so it slapped into my palm. It bloody hurt, but I think I avoided wincing.
"It is time for a reckoning, Princess Esmeralda," I said in my most menacing voice. I slapped the hairbrush into my palm again, this time very gently, though I hoped with a lot of meaning. "You tricked me into coming to this ball and you lied to your guests about my intent in coming here. Lies that could easily have got both me and Jenny killed."
I expected, okay let's be honest, I hoped Esmeralda would cower in her bed and beg my forgiveness. Instead, she looked at me eyes brimming with a steely resolve.
"You are correct, Wizard Morrissey. I have committed a grievous crime against your integrity and the punishment you have come to mete out is certainly deserved. You would be within your rights to kill me for what I've done to you, and what you offer instead is most merciful."
She was playing me again, I was sure of it. I was the one who was supposed to be in charge. However, it felt as though she was leading me on.
"I've been punished many times in my life and so I am familiar with the structure of the punishment you have in mind. Would you prefer me lying over your lap or should I bend over the bed?"
This was all going much too fast for me and I was mentally searching for the pause button. Unfortunately, while that works fine when watching a DVD, this was real life. Esmeralda took my standing there feeling perplexed as an answer and slid out of bed. She positioned herself in front of me, turned and pulled her nightshirt over her head as she bent over the bed placing her head between her arms.
"Do your worst, Wizard Morrissey, for I most surely deserve it. I will do my best not to shame myself or you further by crying out when I am put to my trials."
I took one look at her proffered naked backside and hopped straight back to my room.
"Where have you been, Jake? And what on Earth is the hairbrush for?" Jenny asked.
"Nothing," I replied, throwing it across the room as though it had caught fire.
"Wherever you've been, it seems to have got you excited," Jenny said as she looked meaningfully downwards. I knew exactly what she was referring to. I jumped onto the bed and pulled the sheets up. Sometimes a man could get no privacy at all.
Jenny started to snuggle up to me and I remembered what Esmeralda had said.
"We can't. Not here, not now."
"Why not? You're more than up for it." She squeezed me meaningfully. I gulped.
"She can see me, whatever I do in Salice," I whispered urgently. At the time, I couldn't understand the blank look I received in reply. Why is it a woman can only read your mind when you don't want her to?
"Princess Esmeralda can see every single thing I say and do, every single thing, including this."
"That bitch!" Jenny exploded. Then interest took over, "How do you know?"
"She just told me." Sometimes I should just bite my tongue and think about it, before I say things out loud.
"Up in her bedroom." See what I mean?
"Let me get this straight. You just hopped back from Princess Esmeralda's room having gone there wearing only your pajamas. How could you?"
Do you see how women can distort the things you say and do and make something completely unfair and unreasonable out of them? I had no option at that point but to explain to Jenny exactly why I went to Esmeralda's room and what I planned to do there. It was a lot less bad than what she was thinking; at least I hoped it was.
"I see." Jenny claimed no magical powers but I could have sworn I could see frost forming in the room. "And what was wrong with using THAT on me. Am I not the person who got you into this mess in the first place?"
I have to admit I hadn't seen that response coming.
"If you're going to do that sort of thing, shouldn't it be with your girlfriend?"
I went with silence. Silence is my most eloquent ploy. I should use it more often. I should have used it earlier. Sensing a slight thaw in the local weather I attempted to put my arm around her. She pushed me away and rolled over so she couldn't see me.
"We can't do any of that, now can we? Princess Esmeralda would be watching us."
Going back over it in my head, the first and fatal mistake I made that morning was waking up in the first place.
It amuses me when people see Wizards as a simple read without any depths. I designed the book to be entertaining, but it isn’t anything like as simple as it first appears.
I wanted to pull off one of those slights of hands that street magicians do with cards. Everything out in the open, and yet you still don’t see it. That’s why the book is written in first person, something I usually avoid. The reader sees the world though Jake’s eyes and his prejudices become the readers prejudices to some extent. So the reader never sees the elephant in the room even when it’s pointed out to him, because Jake doesn’t believe it exists.
If you have read Wizards or plan to do so, here’s the big clue. Princess Esmeralda is the only character in the book who actually understands what wizards are and what they can do. She’s read all the Kingdom’s books on wizardry, books she has kept hidden from Jake. Esmeralda tells Jake repeatedly that his world view is completely wrong and she even explains why, if you read the Ball sequence carefully.
This isn’t a simple book at all and most of the apparently simple bits have deep and dark explanations hidden behind them.
In the sequel, to be published this Fall, Jake finds out a little bit more about his magic. Esmeralda will try to stop him finding out anything as she insists he should look beyond what her books say to what his heart tells him. By the end of the story he will think he understands magic completely, but as usual, he will be wrong.
I also expand the universe for the reader and explain why some of the worlds are populated with humans and their farm animals. Jake will visit one of the closed worlds that wizards are forbidden to enter and discover more about the history of the multiverse.
The reader will also find out a little bit more about the Dragons and the prophecy that links their survival or destruction to Jake. Wizards is a simple book in the same way that if you stopped reading The Lord of the Rings just before the Hobbits left the Shire, you’d think it was written for young children.