You never know where fencing connections will come from, and I just had one come out of nowhere. It’s one of those things about fencing that makes it extraordinary.
Recently I had a discussion with NYT Bestselling Author Douglas E. Richards about my newly published book, Breaking News of Tomorrow. I love Richards’s sci-fi and technothrillers, in particular, I recommend his book Wired, a great summer read for anyone looking for an engaging summer read. If you read my book, which is a technothriller/political thriller, you surely understand why Richards’ writing fascinates me so much.
We started off talking about our writing work, but then Doug brought up his son, a fencer! He spent countless hours in fencing tournaments and at his son’s fencing gym, watching his son practicing and competing. In fact, he’d been a fencer himself. Not only that, but Doug dropped into the conversation that he’d written a young adult novel about fencing.
This was one of those little revelations that just blew me away. Having read and absolutely loved about a half dozen (if not more) of his books, I was completely astonished to discover that one of my favorite writers was a seasoned fencing parent, a fencer himself, and even wrote a middle-grade thriller that involves fencing—two worlds colliding in the most wonderful way.
As soon as we got off the call, I immediately hopped online and purchased the book, The Devil’s Sword. A few days later, when it arrived, I put it to the top of my reading stack, diving in the minute it came through the door. One of my favorite things in the world is to get a new book with a premise that I can get excited about.
A fencer’s review of The Devil’s Sword by Douglas E. Richards
Here’s my spoiler-free review of The Devil’s Sword. You’ll get some basics here, and you’ll get my opinion, but the major plot points that are important for the reader are left out so that you can experience it for yourself.
Usually, I am skeptical about books with fencing – most of them depict fencing as inaccurately as Hollywood movies depict sword-fighting scenes. In most books and films, fencing is usually just a fleeting activity, a nice addition that shows a character’s personality or gives a setting for the plot to move forward, but often it could easily be removed from the story and doesn’t have much meaning. This is frustrating beyond belief, because I always want to have more than the usual plug-it-in-character device that media has for fencing.
To my huge surprise, that was not the case with The Devil’s Sword!
Doug’s personal understanding of fencing is crystal clear thanks to his vivid descriptions and accurate portrayals of the fencing world. He is a writer who obviously knows what he’s talking about. There’s no way that someone on the outside would be able to do the in-depth kind of writing that we see in this book. The meticulous attention to detail in depicting weapon checks, pools, DEs, and bouts rang true immediately to my experience. This is totally different than most of the works out there about fencing, and it was refreshing to see. It was real fencing tournament! Sometimes I even had a de ja vu – explanations of weapon check, pools, DE’s and bouts were so truthful and detailed that I caught myself thinking that this is a fantastic introduction to fencing.
In this book, fencing is the central theme. You cannot take it out, like you cannot take out Jedi from Star Wars. The main characters are fencers at heart, and the whole plot spins out from the world of fencing. What’s more, the plot itself is woven in with the whole world of fencing in terms of the themes and metaphors. It’s unlike almost anything I’ve read.
Three fourteen-year-old foil fencers in San Diego are invited by their coach to attend an RYC in Las Vegas, held at the highly secure Nellis Air Force base. They don’t know it, but the base is home to a top-secret military defense project. While there, a rogue faction of Black Ops agents turn the weapon into a dangerous offensive weapon called “The Devil’s Sword”. And international arms dealers are after this piece of tech with the potential threat to take down the entire country. The young fencers must use their wit, stamina, intelligence, and fencing skills to help them stop the internationally woven threat and save everyone from looming disaster.
The plot fits well within the action/thriller category, with tons of twists and turns that are exciting but also believable. Though it’s definitely targeted at young adults, it’s well-paced and engaging enough for someone well past their teen years to enjoy.
The RYC is actually the mechanism that allows the villains to get their foot in the door and make their play against the lead scientist. The book does a great job of integrating the real world of the fencing tournament into the action-adventure of the plot. There are excellent depictions of the fencing competition, and it’s fun to imagine how this experience would go if it were to happen at one of the real competitions we attend! Every fencer who has been to a regional competition will see themselves in the characters and events. It’s a huge plus factor to the book. In fact, the depiction of the fencing event and everything surrounding it is so accurate that for the fencers this book would feel right at home.
As the coach says at one point in the book – going to Regionals is a totally different experience!
Especially for young adult readers, the story and writing style will keep them engaged and reading along throughout. It’s a great way for them to see themselves in a piece of literature. It’s important that they are able to find reflections of their experiences in the texts that they read – it helps them to understand their importance in the world around them.
For your child’s summer reading, or especially as a book to take with you for the trip to Arizona for Summer Nationals, The Devil’s Sword is a fantastic book. Highly recommended! Prepare to be enthralled and transported to a world where blades clash, secrets abound, and the fate of nations hangs in the balance.
Now for the real question that we need to know – when is Doug going to be releasing the sequel? We need more great fencing-related books like this one in the world, especially since the nation’s top secret is promised to be revealed in the next RYC!