“One is an opportunity. Two is a threat. Three is an invasion.”
For hundreds of years, strange things have been washing up on the shores of Darcentaria. But when a young foreign woman named El is found unconscious on the beach amidst the burning wreckage of a strange metal craft, the villagers of Odessa are immediately suspicious—is she an agent of the Dalriadan Empire, their cruel oppressors for as long as they can remember? Or does she come from the Outside, the vast and legendary lands beyond their borders from which no man or woman alive has ever returned?
Torsten Eiselher, a talented young swordsman, has spent the last nine years of his life wrongfully imprisoned by his uncle, the Empire’s ruler. Betrayed and deceived at every turn, Torsten has survived by keeping a firm grip on his sword—and by staying well away from anything to do with the Outside. But when his young sister is murdered, Torsten finds himself irrevocably drawn to El despite her Outsider heritage—and he begins to question everything he has been told about her world.
Intrigued by the existence of a powerful and dangerously advanced world within his reach, the Empire’s ruler, Jurien Arminius, launches a hunt for El and the two Outsiders that arrived with her—the ones who could help him win his war against Torsten and the rebellion that threatens to topple his Empire.
Suddenly, Torsten is forced to choose between defeating his long-term enemy or saving the woman he has come to love . . .
Torsten grasped her shoulder, turning her to face him. “I am not my uncle,” he said in a gentler voice. “If you tell me what I need to know about the Outside and show me their technology, I will use it for good. I will use it to destroy all who would do evil against the Rebellion.”
“And what then?”
He stared at her.
“After you were done with Arminius and his allies, what would you do then? You will never run out of enemies, Torsten. Especially if it’s you who becomes the marque after Arminius is overthrown.”
His gaze hardened. “I want what’s best for Dalriada.”
“What you want will destroy you.”
“I’m not so weak as you suppose.”
“On the contrary,” she said, looking deeply and honestly into his face.
“You’re the strongest man I know. And that’s what makes me so afraid.”
His expression changed. He had not expected that. “Of what?”
“You have a will like iron, Torsten. Everyone bends to it, including Liadan.
But . . . ” She hesitated and broke off the sentence, realizing what she had been about to say.
“Never mind.” She stood, trying to get the blood flowing through her limbs.
He stood and faced her. “What, El?”
She remembered the country she’d left behind. Altars with swords instead of crosses; God’s sacred Word replaced by a book that detailed an entirely different struggle of humankind. Torchlit processions and enormous bonfires that destroyed the paper-bound admonitions of those who would protest against the coming madness. A man who thought he was a god.
She summoned her courage to speak the truth. “You can’t defeat the darkness in this world when you haven’t defeated the darkness in yourself.”
Only one can save them.
The Rebellion has fallen.
The door to the Outside has been opened.
And the one who opened it—Jurien Arminius—is now the most powerful man in Darcentaria.
But everything they have known is about to change forever.
Separated by Arminius but fighting to get back to each other, El and Torsten encounter unlikely allies that reveal stunning truths about each other, the Outside, and the very beginnings of Darcentaria itself.
Jasmine (J.J. Fischer) is living proof that it is possible to be addicted to tea and coffee simultaneously. Both made it possible for her to complete her Bachelor degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2012.
Jasmine is married to David, and together they are the proud owner-parents of five warring pet chickens who tolerate each others’ existence—most days. When tempted away from the keyboard, she enjoys reading, thinking about lasagna almost as often as Garfield the cat, and working towards her black belt in karate. She vows to one day write the perfect fight scene.
Jasmine makes her home near Sydney, Australia, where most animals want to kill you and drop bears enforce a daily reign of terror. If you’re reading this, please send help.
Ends July 21, 2021