The Devil Pulls the Strings

Fiction - Fantasy - Epic
254 Pages
Reviewed on 10/27/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

J.W. helps catch naughty folk for the Government. He's taught English Conversation in Japan and can analyze anyone's handwriting. He's sailed through the Suez Canal twice and hunted pirates in the Persian Gulf. He's climbed to the top of Mount Fuji, been kicked off Mount Rainier, and he's successfully run in the Walt Disney World Marathon as a woman.

When he worked at the FBI, his thesis on Red Flag Behaviors Found in Relationships, earned him an invitation to present a paper at the First Annual Forensics Congress in China, which led him to write his award-winning book Naughty or Nice - Whose List Are You On? available as a handout during lectures.

He co-authored the bestselling book, The Happiness Code with Ray Brehm, and other authors, who all share their personal happiness hacks you can use too.

And His latest book, The Devil Pulls the Strings as seen on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Tickler News Live, and the NY Post, received the Firebird Award, the Literary Titan Award, the International Review of Books Badge of Achievement, made Chanticleer's Mystery and Mayhem Shortlist, and Chanticleer's Fantasy Long List.

This book received 5-Star Book Reviews from Book Viral, Clarion, Chanticleer, Literary Titan, readers on,,, Reader's Favorite, and listeners on

And the book's cinematic trailer selected to move forward in the American Golden Picture International Film Festival competition.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

When a young man takes his injured friend's place in his band, he gets caught in a mad world of murder, magic, mythology, and time travel in the urban fantasy novel, The Devil Pulls the Strings by J. W. Zarek. Boone Daniels inadvertently injures his friend Flynn when someone blows an air horn during a jousting contest at the Renaissance Faire. Due to Flynn's injuries, Boone agrees to stand in for him in his band, The Village Idiots. The gig takes place in NYC, and Flynn insists that Boone go ahead of the band and meet their contact, Professor Stone. When Boone arrives as instructed, a piano and a dead body falling from the balcony above him nearly crushes him. Things get worse when two thugs start shooting. While fleeing the bullets, Boone's life takes a drastic turn when floating taxis, disappearing doors, and altering realities save his life. Why are they chasing Boone? What do they want?

The Devil Pulls the Strings by J. W. Zarek is a brilliant urban fantasy enhanced with magical beings and time travel. It has a dramatic storyline with an action-filled plot, and I enjoyed every element of the story. The storyworld's imagery is incredible, transporting the reader between modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Italy. A combination of the television series Warehouse 13, The Librarians, and The Magicians, the storyline flows swiftly and is spellbinding from the first page until the last. The story ends on the ideal place to segue into a sequel and is the perfect beginning for a sensational series. It is an engaging and exciting urban fantasy that promises to thrill everyone from twelve to a hundred.

Nicholus Schroeder

The Devil Pulls the Strings is a modern-day fantasy tale by J. W. Zarek. Boone Daniels’s life was turned upside down the day a piano fell from a balcony, or rather what fell after the piano changed his life. The body of one Professor Stone fell on the cold pavement beside Boone. Gunmen appear, and Boone’s simple meet and greet goes to hell in a handbasket. Boone escapes from the armed men in a taxi with a bystander called Sapphire. As the two attempt to unravel the mystery behind Professor Stone’s death, they uncover a sinister ritual, one that aims to summon Satan himself to the world of the living. Boone and Sapphire work together to foil the plans of those that wish to summon the Devil. However, they are unaware of the greater world around them and the danger they will be in for meddling with the ritual.

The Devil Pulls the Strings was a great read that didn’t take its self too seriously. J. W. Zarek was able to convey that through his protagonist’s sarcasm and hilarious jokes. That made the book a refreshing read, as I rarely come across a book from the fantasy genre that dials back the epic magic and gore in favor of more humor. This book struck a nice balance between all the gory stuff and the light-hearted stuff. The plot was also very interesting and not at all predictable or generic. The characters are all well written. My personal favorite was Baba Yaga. Her lines never ceased to make me laugh. The various settings in the book were great. The modern-day and the past settings were detailed and easy to envision, thanks to some very descriptive writing. This was truly a great read and time well spent. Therefore, I have no doubt that fans of the fantasy genre will love this one.

Liz Konkel

The Devil Pulls the Strings by J.W. Zarek is an urban fantasy treat with action, time travel, humor, and originality. Boone Daniels isn't exactly lucky. He struggles with panic attacks and guilt. Not to mention the wendigo whose presence has been lurking since he was a child. After landing his best friend in the hospital, Boone agrees to take over a gig with Flynn's band. Should be simple, unless you have Boone's luck. When he arrives to meet with the band's contact, he finds the good Professor Stone's body instead and lands in the middle of a shoot-out. The next thing he knows he's on a mission through time to find a piece of Paganini's music before it can be used to bring forth the devil and trap Baba Yaga to destroy New York City. His journey takes him throughout time where he encounters immortal beings. Boone will risk everything for redemption and keep his promise to Flynn.

Several fun elements are incorporated within the story that makes it stand out in the Urban Fantasy genre. The world that J.W. Zarek created blends Slavic mythology with the suspense of secret societies, the historical inclusion of Paganini's music, and the adventure that comes with time travel. The inclusion of Niccolo Paganini creates a real touch of history within the story that blends perfectly within the time travel adventure and the gritty danger that stems from a supernatural threat. The writing flawlessly weaves between locations and times, dipping from the past of Italy to the present of New York City with ease. Mythology plays a strong role within the world with various demonic threats of wendigos and Baba Yaga. While Boone's journey is adventure-packed and full of dangerous stakes, it's also humorous through Boone's personality and witty dialogue.

Zarek creates a thrilling ride due to having a layered protagonist that's humorous, fun, original, and relatable. Boone and Sapphire have a delightful dynamic that pairs well with the time travel tone. Their relationship hits all the right notes with banter and humor between them that makes every scene they share even more fun. Zarek excels at vivid details which are carefully woven throughout each time and location such as the use of the taxi companies that do more than ensure a ride in a time. The Devil Pulls the Strings is a brilliant blend of time travel, suspense, action, mythology, secret societies, humor, adventure, and history. A highly recommended story that is fun from start to finish!

Vincent Dublado

J. W. Zarek has penned an arresting fantasy horror in The Devil Pulls the Strings. It is beautiful, thoughtful, and ends on the right note. Boone Daniels is the frontman of the story, a handyman who works at the St. Louis Renaissance Festival. As he assumes the mantle of a warrior bard in a jousting tournament, he accidentally injures his friend, Flynn Michaels, who is scheduled to appear at a medieval rock performance in New York. Boone covers for his friend and in New York, he meets the band’s patron, Professor Stone, and Sapphire Anjou, the professor’s assistant. Boone and Sapphire flee from a group of armed assailants who are after sheet music containing Paganini’s violin composition. When three compositions of Paganini are doused with some strange bluish-green liquid, they merge, and the song changes to unlock a summoning spell that will destroy New York City. Boone and Sapphire join forces to track the Paganini pieces—if their enemies don’t get to them first, and if Boone can deal with the menacing wendigo that has been hounding him since he was six.

As a musical genius, Paganini was rumored to have had an association with the devil, and this element, in part, is what makes The Devil Pulls the Strings tick. Through his compositions, Paganini becomes a pervading character that helps to define the frenzy and intrigue that envelope J.W. Zarek’s narrative. It helps to make Boone bigger than life when he is ultimately trapped in a situation that gives him no choice but to face it. It is a great horror-fantasy tale, one whose central themes are rudimentary, but Zarek’s execution makes it a reading experience that is hard to put down. He articulates the story’s irresistible appeal through good pacing and description. As the first book launch for a new series, The Devil Pulls the Strings whets your anticipation for the next installment. It is a treat for anyone who craves fast action with intelligent plotting.

Pikasho Deka

The Devil Pulls the Strings is a supernatural urban fantasy novel written by J.W. Zarek. Missouri musician Boone Daniels is covering for his injured friend Flynn Michaels when he witnesses the murder of his patron, Professor Stone, before his eyes and finds himself fleeing for his life alongside a French violinist named Sapphire Anjou. Boone and Sapphire soon discover a larger conspiracy involving a lost piece of music by Paganini, which is desperately wanted by an immortal called Sinti, who wants to use it to summon the Devil. Additionally, Sinti has put Baba Yaga in slumber for over a century and plans to unleash her upon New York City to wreak havoc. Boone must now find the sheet music and prepare for a final confrontation with Sinti before the catastrophe.

Author J.W. Zarek tells an action-packed tale involving narcissistic immortals, broke musicians, and blood-sucking vampires guaranteed to entertain fans of the supernatural genre. Moving at a blistering pace, the author wastes little time to draw the reader into the story as you find yourself immediately gripped by the fast-paced narrative, which keeps you enthralled from start to finish. The characters are well-developed with distinct personalities. Boone is a compelling protagonist and someone who is easy to root for. His character evolution from a naive young musician to someone others looked up to was one of my favorite aspects of the book. If you're itching for a fast-paced supernatural adventure odyssey, grab a copy of The Devil Pulls the Strings.