Charles de Lint
The Barbed Coilby J. V. Jones
As the demented Prince Kylock prepares to wed the beautiful, mad Catherine, a war is brewing, fueled by the ambitious prince's newly unleashed Machiavellian power--placing the empire's destiny in danger. Ads in Locus, SF Chronicle, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy.
Charles de Lint
Sparkling ideas embedded in vast swathes of conventionally inflated mediocrity: Fans of the previous trilogy should feel right at home.
- Grand Central Publishing
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- 6.36(w) x 9.31(h) x 1.84(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Barbed Coil
By J.V. Jones
Warner AspectCopyright © 1999 J.V. Jones
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSettling down to enjoy her breakfast, Tessa McCamfrey skimmed over the first few pages of the Union-Tribune. Headlines, photo captions, and advertisements were the only things she stopped for. She could see and read the smaller type of the articles and editorials, but she didn't like to concentrate on the characters for very long. Their size made her nervous.
Leaning over her white, laminated desk, Tessa grabbed her bacon sandwich from its place by the phone. As always before she bit into the toasted English muffin, she took a peek inside, checking that everything was just right. She liked to see the grain of the meat.
Satisfied, she took a bite of the sandwich, then flicked the paper to the next page. "Hmm," she mumbled to herself as her gaze flicked across the headline still no sign of the missing boxes. How long had it been now? A month? Six weeks? They'd probably never turn up again.
Just as Tessa threw the paper on the desk, the phone rang. Her body stiffened for the briefest moment. Three more rings, and then the brand spanking new Sony Deluxe Home Answering System clicked into action. Cassette wheels turned, appropriate lights blinked, then a voice that was not Tessa's own advised the caller, "Our family isn't at home right now. Please leave a message after the tone and we will call you back."
Tessa grimaced. Our family. She really should replace the prerecorded message with one of her own. Even as the thought occurred to her, she knew she'd never change it.
She never could bring herself to do anything that needed to be done.
An efficient beep sounded and was quickly replaced by a soft male voice. "Tessa? ... Tessa? Are you there?" A pause followed, and when the voice came again it had lost some of its softness to frustration. "Look, I know you're there. I'm coming over. We need to talk."
Tessa was out of her chair and pulling on her shoes before the last sentence started. The bacon sandwich was discarded, car keys located, pocketbook checked for, and wool sweater pulled over her cotton shirt. It was time to go for a walk.
Tessa hated those end-of-relationship talks. She hated the look in the man's eyes, hated herself for failing again. All her relationships had ended the same way, with the same phone call and the same recriminations and guilt. How could she tell the men she felt nothing for them yet couldn't understand why?
There was no way to tell them, which was why she spent her money on a series of successively better answering machines. She couldn't tell them, so she'd screen them out instead. And if, like Mike Hollister, they threatened to come round and confront her in person, she'd simply take off to the woods.
The southern California sun was brighter than Tessa liked. Despite the fact that it was now May and the temperature was in the low seventies, Tessa didn't discard her sweater. She always felt too exposed with just a single layer of fabric between her and the outside world.
Her yellow Honda Civic was a good friend. Unlike those faithless cars in movies that always stalled when the heroine needed to get away, the Civic purred into action the moment the key was turned.
Where to go? Tessa wanted to see some green. Not the chemically enhanced green of land graded and ready for building, or the clipped and cultured green of the Mission Gorge golf course. She wanted some real green. Some living green.
Turning the car onto Texas Street, Tessa headed north from University Heights and east on Highway 8, past lines of hotels, shopping malls, bowling alleys, and driving ranges. It was early Saturday morning, so the freeway was a breeze. The sky was southern California blue: pale, cloudless, hazy. The sunlight filtering through the driver's side window was warm on Tessa's hands and face.
In some deep and secret part of herself, Tessa was glad to be on the run. It seemed the only times she was really happy in her life were when she was on her way somewhere. If she was lucky, there were minutes, even hours, when the anticipation of arrival was so overpowering that she forgot about everything except the journey itself. Without exception, when she finally reached her destination she was always vaguely disappointed. She never seemed to get just where she wanted to go.
As Tessa drove she was aware of a mild ringing sensation in her temples. Shssssh, like fingernails scraped across a chalkboard. Tessa's heart slowly sank in her chest. Not now. Not today. She'd gone so long without feeling it, she'd secretly hoped it had gone. Pushing her foot down on the accelerator, Tessa tried to put some distance between herself and the noise. From experience she knew the longer and faster she drove, the less her tinnitus would bother her.
Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing sound in the ear. Tessa had first been diagnosed with it when she was five years old, just before her family had left England for America. She clearly remembered sitting in the square stretch of grass that passed for their front garden in those days, pushing her fists into her ears and asking her mother when the "pinging noise would stop." It felt as if a tiny bell had been struck inside her head.
The noise went on and on. After a week the family doctor was called. Dr. Bodesill was a large, red-nosed man who smelled of port and had a peculiar fondness for wearing brightly knitted waistcoats. After much highly impressive "umming" and "aahing," he advised Tessa's mother that Tessa needed to go to London to see a specialist. Ten days later Tessa was bundled up in a thick winter coat in defiance of the heat, her hair was pulled back and her socks were pulled high, and she was dragged along to the station, protesting all the way.
Tessa liked the train. The rhythmic thug, thug of the metal wheels skimming over the track and the multipitched sound of the engine masked her tinnitus completely during the two-hour journey. So completely, in fact, that by the time they arrived in London Tessa was sure the ringing in her ears had gone. Just as they coasted into Euston Station, Tessa turned to her mother and said, "Mummy, the noise has stopped."
Tessa's mother had looked genuinely distressed at this statement: all the way to London, a specialist waiting to see them, and now her unruly and ungrateful daughter had taken it into her head to pronounce herself cured! Tessa's mother was saved the anxiety of facing the London specialist with a miraculously and most selfishly cured child by the approach of a porter with a loud whistle.
In all her life, Tessa would never forget the sound of that whistle. The train window had been rolled down since Stoke, and it was still down when the porter walked along Platform 4 and, picking a position less than three feet away from Tessa's left ear, blew sharply on his professional stationmaster's whistle.
The sound razored through Tessa's left ear, slicing nerves and tissue and membranes, setting her whole brain, her whole being, ringing with a dense clamor of noise. It sounded like a great metal machine clanging away inside her skull. Tessa remembered screaming hysterically and begging her mother to make it stop. Hours later she learned that the sound of her own screams had aggravated her condition further.
By the time they reached Harley Street, Tessa's mother had tied her daughter's hands behind her back with her yellow nylon scarf. It was the only way to stop Tessa from beating the noise from her temples.
The specialist, an otolaryngologist named Dr. Hemsch, gave Tessa a sedative, a glass of lemonade, and a teddy bear to hold during the examination. Over the course of the following hour, Tessa's ears were probed with light and cold metal instruments, her hearing was tested by exposure to a series of low- and high-pitched sounds, and urine and blood samples were taken by a plump nurse with cool hands.
Dr. Hemsch explained his conclusions separately to mother and daughter. Tessa would be forever grateful to him that he spoke to her first. "Tessa," he said, leaning forward and taking off his glasses, revealing blue and kindly eyes beneath, "you have what we call tinnitus. Now what that means is that you hear buzzing noises in your ears. There will be times-just like today when the porter blew his whistle in the station-when the noises will sound louder than normal. And other times when you'll hardly hear anything at all."
The doctor touched Tessa on her shoulder. "You and I, Tessa, are going to be a team. We've got to make sure that you stay well away from loud noises like the porter's whistle, because although we don't know what causes tinnitus, we know that loud noises make it worse."
"Can you make the noises go away?" Tessa asked, emboldened by the exciting thought of her and Dr. Hemsch being a team.
Dr. Hemsch looked her straight in the eyes. "I can't do anything to make the noises go away. I can do things to lessen their effects, and if the tinnitus doesn't get better on its own account, we will have to look into those alternatives together."
Tessa smiled, a little sadly, as she overtook a black pickup truck in the left-hand lane. She and Dr. Hemsch never did get chance to be a team. Shortly after that first visit, she and her parents had moved to New York. The tinnitus stopped sometime during the nine-hour flight and didn't reappear until seven years later, relegating the blue-eyed doctor and his cool-handed nurse to fond memories in the past.
The driver of the pickup truck hit the accelerator and roared past Tessa in the inside lane. As the pickup pulled ahead, Tessa noticed the bumper sticker i don't take it-i create it spelled out in bold, black script on the back bumper. Instinctively she eased off the accelerator.
She knew she drove too fast. She couldn't help herself. During the summer she learned to drive, her tinnitus reappeared, and she quickly discovered that the farther down her foot was on the accelerator, the more noise the car engine made. The best way to deal with tinnitus was to mask it: to offset the high-pitched sound in the ears with an equally loud but low-pitched external noise. The theory was that the two sounds canceled each other out. Which wasn't entirely true, but it did help. Sometimes more than others.
Spotting the turnoff for the I-15 North, Tessa guided the yellow Honda onto the left lane, slipping directly behind the black pickup. The brake lights on the pickup flashed the moment her car was in lane. Tessa's foot found the brake pedal. The freeway was clear, yet the pickup's lights flashed twice more in rapid succession, forcing Tessa to slow down.
The I-15 junction was a third of a mile ahead, according to the California Transit sign. As Tessa's gaze dropped from the sign back to the pickup, the noise in her ears sharpened. The brake lights flashed red again. Tessa slammed her foot on the brake. She felt the force of the seat belt pushing her back in her seat. The driver of the pickup smiled into his rearview mirror. He had a dark mustache, a double chin, and a small mouth crammed with teeth. Anger flared hot in Tessa's sights. She wanted to ram the back of his truck, ram it, then cut in front and slam on her brakes.
Old words came to her ears, though. Words of caution well worn from twenty-one years of use: "Calm down, Tessa. Calm down. The doctor said you were never to get excited-it might make the noises come back."
A lifetime of self-control exerted itself over Tessa and she pumped the brake, forcing the Honda to fall back to fifty-five. The pickup shot ahead toward the turnoff. Tessa was shaking. Gray noise ground through her temples. Suddenly she didn't want to take the I-15 North. She didn't want to meekly follow the pickup truck, defeated. Palms damp upon the wheel, Tessa pulled out of the exit lane and slipped back onto the 8 East.
Angry at herself now, she felt the tinnitus growing worse. It was always this way: She wasn't supposed to get excited, yet the very act of not getting excited agitated her even more.
The Honda sped eastward along the 8, past clinics and strip malls, DIY warehouses, and apartment complexes promising "Free Move-in and Cable" on worn pastel signs. Back up to seventy now, Tessa tried to relax and let the engine noise soothe her worn nerves. She no longer knew where she was going. Mission Trails, with its old oaks and pines and its hiking tracks leading through shaded valleys and over sandy hills, had been her intended destination. Now she was simply driving east.
The incident with the pickup had left her shaken. Tessa tried to put it behind her, but the tinnitus-the ringing in her ears that appeared and then disappeared in sharp bursts throughout her life-was getting worse.
"Soothing music," her last doctor had said, "will help whenever the noises start." Dr. Eagleman had handed Tessa a cassette of something entitled The Healing Ocean, for which he had billed her $99 one month later. The cassette turned out to be a mix of waves lapping against the shore, threaded through with some tinny New Age music that would have sounded right at home in a small-town airport lobby.
Fumbling in the driver's door pocket, Tessa's hand closed around The Healing Ocean. She brought it up to the dashboard, took the cassette from its striped blue box, and yanked on the length of exposed tape. Streams of shiny brown ribbon raced through the spools and into the air. Holding the cassette firmly against the steering wheel, Tessa pulled and pulled on the tape until there was nothing left of it in the cassette.
The sight of the tape spaghettied on her lap made Tessa grin. Dr. Eagleman's Healing Ocean did have therapeutic properties after All-it had just taken her a while to find them. For good measure she tossed the empty cassette onto the backseat. Yes, she definitely felt better now.
The Honda Civic sped eastward past La Mesa and the sprawling expanse of El Cajon. Tessa, her nerves eased by the small act of destroying the cassette, risked turning up the radio. Something classical was playing-Bach, she guessed. If her father had been with her, he would have known for sure. Easing back into her seat, Tessa settled down to enjoy the drive. Hospitals, gyms, and furniture stores gave way to self-storage units, gun shops, and For Sale signs. The freeway narrowed to two lanes and began to climb up toward Alpine Heights.
Despite the fact that the Honda was speeding along at seventy, the shrill, metal ringing increased. The sound was close to the surface now. Tessa could almost feel it straining to break free of her skin. She turned Bach up a notch and deliberately shifted her thoughts away from the noise.
Mike Hollister would be arriving at her door right about now. Always polite, he would knock softly-even after he realized that she had run away on him. Tessa felt bad about that. She liked Mike a lot. He was a kind man, a good father to his four-year-old daughter, and he shared Tessa's interest in illuminated manuscripts.
Excerpted from The Barbed Coil by J.V. Jones Copyright © 1999 by J.V. Jones. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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This is the first book by J.V. Jones I have read. I was looking for a good epic fantasy (my favorite genre) to read, when my friend told me about a site with lists of books, and this one is the only one I found that even sounded slightly interesting. I began to read it three or four days ago, and the only things that kept me from reading nonstop was the need to sleep, and school the next day. I originally got this book from the library, but trust me, it is going to become a permanent addition to my personal library. GREAT WORK Ms./Mrs. Jones!!!!!
a COMPELLING STORY ABOUT FATE, HARDSHIP, AND FRIENDSHIP. THAT WILL KEEP THE READER SPELLBOUND. WHO NEEDS A TV WHEN YOU HAVE THIS BOOK~!
This was the first book I read by J.V. Jones. But it was soooo good I had to buy more of her books. You will truley enjoy this story. It captivates you and won't let you put it down. I read it in one sitting, the very day I got it.
The Barbed Coil captured and held my attention from the start. I felt what the characters felt and didn't want to leave their world. It had me almost nauseous with anticipation in parts. This book is high above so many I've read lately. I'll read anything of Jones'.
I was buying this book for a friend, read the summary, and was compelled. I had to by this book for myself. Every chance I had, I was reading it. This is the first book I have read buy J.V.Jones, but it won't be the last. This book is going on my favorites list.
J.V. Jones is one of the best in the field of high fantasy! She has an unbelievable ability to know the most intricate details about how things happen. Her stories, especially The Barbed Coil, take the reader into a world that Jones' makes real. I enjoyed the ride, and I loved the way the story never turned the way I expected it to. I also admire the way Jones isn't afraid to describe the fights and the battles to the same detail the she describes the rest of the fantasy world. To heck with pc. I think most people enjoy getting the whole story. I can hardly wait for J.V. Jones next book!