fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review J.V. Jones The Barbed CoilThe Barbed Coil by J.V. Jones

My favorite novel by J.V. Jones is The Barbed Coil, a stand-alone novel set in both 20th century Earth and a strange and distant world. It begins in a most unusual manner, and I didn’t think it would work for me, but I read on, and I was glad I did.

Tessa McCamfrey suffers from tinnitus, or a ringing in her ears. She is never entirely free of it, but at certain periods of her life she suffers from especially bad spells. At the point where the book opens, she is suffering from such an episode.
Little does she know that she’s suffering from the effects of magic.

While in a futile attempt to drive away from her tinnitus, she happens upon a treasure: a pile of stolen safety-deposit boxes lying discarded in the woods. She roots through them, not realizing that she is looking for something until she finds it: A barbed ring. She puts it on. The barbs turn around and draw blood. And suddenly she’s in another world. There, she discovers that her ring is a miniature version of the Barbed Coil, a crown that brings power to its wearer, at a terrible cost.

Tessa was a difficult character to warm up to. At first, she seems so very weak, and she is. But she finds strength as the story goes on and in the end, she takes on the enemy in a most unusual way. One of the reasons I loved this book was purely personal. The main character is something akin to a calligraphic artist — as am I. She draws knotworks and patterns, and within the patterns are power. I found the calligraphy portions of The Barbed Coil very accurate and well-researched. I wouldn’t be surprised if J.V. Jones knows or is a calligraphic artist, herself.

The remainder of The Barbed Coil is fairly standard: a romance, a mad king, a protagonist who is the only one who can turn things around. But it works really well. And, as an added bonus, the novel is a stand-alone. I have reread this novel several times. I think it is J.V. Jones’s best work.

FanLit thanks Tia Nevitt for contributing this guest review.

The Barbed Coil — (1999)  Publisher: Tessa McCamfrey, young and rootless resident of Southern California, has never found much in life that interests her. All of that changes when she stumbles upon a ring that transports her to a distant time and place. There she discovers her unexpected talent: She can create luminous, magical illustrations that have the power to influence others’ lives. She becomes involved in the fate of kingdoms when her power is brought to bear against an evil king whose mind has been taken over by a golden crown called the Barbed Coil.


  • Tia Nevitt (guest)

    TIA NEVITT, a guest contributor, has been a mechanic in the Air Force, a factory worker, a civilian supply weasel for the military, and finally, an office worker. She’s been an IT professional for 13 years, and now she's writing her own novels. Find out about them on our Tia Nevitt page or at Tia's blog.