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The Darcentaria Duology #1

The Sword in His Hand

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“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 . . .

552 pages, Paperback

Published February 9, 2021

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About the author

J.J. Fischer

5 books124 followers
Jasmine’s writing dream began with the anthology of zoo animals she painstakingly wrote and illustrated at age five, to rather limited acclaim. Thankfully, her writing (but not her drawing) has improved since then. She is a clinically-trained psychologist but no, she cannot read your mind. When she isn’t killing defenseless house plants, Jasmine enjoys devouring books, dabbling in floristry, playing the piano, eating peanut butter out of the jar, and wishing it rained more often. Jasmine is married to David, and together they make their home a couple of hours’ north of Sydney, Australia, where they live to satisfy the every whim of their ginger overlord cat, Simba.

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5 stars
32 (65%)
4 stars
12 (24%)
3 stars
4 (8%)
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1 (2%)
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0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for Laura Waxman.
86 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2021
Now, this is one that is going on my Favorite Reads of 2021, no doubt about it. Fischer carried quite a few different storylines throughout and wove them together so beautifully. I appreciated the strength of Torsten’s convictions throughout (even if they aren’t the best *cough*) and found myself a little frustrated with El’s vacillating although it did make sense, with all she went through. There were so many great side characters, I’m not even going to try and name any of them because then I’ll never get stopped. I share a LOT more of what I think about this book on my blog post - https://thestartofagoodlife.com/2021/...
Profile Image for Raechel Lenore.
Author 3 books22 followers
June 29, 2022
It's been quite a while since I read a fantasy book, and this one was a good one that immersed me right into a new world. The twist on the whole Bermuda Triangle thing too was fascinating, and rather fun. ^.^
The writing style is really well done, and I had no trouble following along with the plot. And it definitely leaves off at a point where you're wanting to continue into the next book right away. Lucky for me, I shall be able to do that. ;)
The world of Darcentaria is so complex and constructed in such a real way that it was easy to imagine in my mind as the adventure unfolded. There were a great deal of events transpiring between the pages, and at times the story dealt with heavy subject matter, but I think it was done in a pretty decent way.
The faith aspect - the struggle the main character El goes through throughout the story felt very real - no, it wasn't pretty, and yes, she failed a lot, but it all felt very realistic to the story, and I appreciated that it was something she grappled with. I will be very curious to see how this continues to play out in the sequel.
This was a long novel, so it seems difficult to try to encapsulate all of my thoughts into a review, but to attempt at a sum up: I thought The Sword in His Hand was a very well crafted novel with strong characters, and I look forward to the next one!

Thanks to the publishers/author for the copy of this book as a part of JustReadTours Bookstagram tour. I was not required to write a review, all thoughts expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Mary.
Author 1 book17 followers
July 15, 2021
The prologue was beautiful. I had to step back after reading it just to take it all in. There was such a mix of action, escape, and camaraderie.
But afterward, it took a turn for the darker side of things. To me, the prologue set the book up for an adventure story, while in reality this story is centered around vengeance, hate, blood, superstitions, suffering, abuse of power, brutality, etc. In some cases a darker narrative is necessary to depict evil in a non-glorified way or to relay some kind of theme. But here, the main character lives in sin, despises the word of God, and then wonders why God is far from her. It’s not God who saves her—it’s the hardened killer who does. And the suffering, the killing, torture by the supposed good guys, the whippings, the sword-through-the-heart-out-of-mercy, what’s it all for?
Content: pregnancy, hangings, references to an ambassador “sampling the local women,” bodies on the gallows, kissing, miscarriage, stranglings, slavery, sexual advances, whippings, killings of different types, descriptions of dead bodies and cutting throats, various trauma, oaths by the names of their various gods, attempted rapes, and heroine sleeps with love interest.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. A positive review was not required.
Profile Image for Katie Smith.
2 reviews
March 9, 2021
This debut book for J.J. is a wonderful twist on the Bermuda Triangle theory! Her characters are real and pull you into the story. In my opinion, it has a very Robin Hood vibe to it, even though no one is robbing the rich to save the poor. The redemption story is strong in it, too, with real characters fighting off their own realistic issues to come to grips with their need for a Savior. Set during WWII, this book deals heavily with racial issues and shows that prejudice exists in many forms and can destroy entire nations. I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Jessica Baker (A Baker's Perspective).
1,137 reviews58 followers
July 15, 2021
I am super picky about the fantasy books I read. Sometimes they can just be so far fetched and out there, that I cannot enjoy them. That was not the case here. Fischer tells a wonderful story, one that has my attention early on and keeps it until the end. There were lots of twists and turns – everything I want in a fantasy novel. Her writing is vivid, and makes it easy to imagine the surroundings. It was like a mini screen in my mind while I was reading.

Fischer not only gives readers a fun story, she gives a powerful message. Her faith thread is beautifully written in between the pages, and not in an in-your-face way. I think this would be a fun book to even share with non-Christians. Yes the faith theme was evident, but not so much that a non-Christian would get scared off.

Overall I enjoyed this story and think fantasy fans will enjoy it as well. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Anna (Literannie).
329 reviews9 followers
July 31, 2022
This is a great choice for readers who like books like Game of Thrones and other epic fantasies but want some morality and thought provoking elements. There is an element of faith and Christianity tied in which is the first time I have come across this in a book of this type but it was seamless and gave me lots to reflect on.

There is good world building, but not "too much"; just a perfect amount to understand but not get bogged down with. The slow burn romance pulled me in but there was much more to their relationship that it felt more substantial and important.

Weeks after reading while writing my thoughts for this review, I still am thinking about the characters and finding myself caring for them. This book simply checks all the boxes for me as a reader and there was nothing I would change. It won’t take me long to reach for the second of this duology.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All views expressed are my own.
March 26, 2021
This book was not disappointing. It had everything I had anticipated when I was first asked to review it. A lot of action, sadness, brutality, cruelty and even some romance, all nicely packaged in the story.

Wonderfully creative and very well-written. It's about two realms that exist simultaneously, and it is only by sheer luck, accidental or by chance that you find yourself in a land so foreign from your own.

The characters are very well-written and believable. We share their thoughts of hope, despair, and at times, great courage when faced with some of their darkest moments of adversity, you can feel them struggling at times, wrestling with their conscience of what is evil and what is good, which just adds more depth into their character. A paradigm if you well.
1 review1 follower
March 14, 2021
I enjoyed this book so much. For my first foray into fantasy fiction it was a nice soft entry, being blended with historical fiction and romance. The characters were well developed, some great discussions on the nature of mankind and our need for forgiveness - as well as a great exposition of the effect of trauma on our lives. The author’s background in psychology is well used here without being heavy handed.
The plot is fast moving, compelling, and thoroughly engaging. I finished it in a couple of days, and with the cliff hanger ending, I can’t wait for the sequel! Great debut novel, highly recommend.
Profile Image for Marlene.
295 reviews6 followers
March 22, 2021
An interesting fantasy. What if there was access to a different world that existed in the ocean and people stumbled upon it by accident? What if we're seen as Outsiders and are both feared and desired because of our capabilities? The story takes a look at the influences of "first contact" in the middle of a war in the other world. I like how the story takes a look at people's base desires and what they're willing to do, see, and believe, and how that resonates with they're core personality.
1 review1 follower
March 25, 2021
Really enjoyed reading this novel. I find fantasy so often is bogged down in huge detail and gets stale, but Fischer manages to move the story through an incredible world with good pace in the story without making me feel like the characters are left undeveloped. A great read for young people as well as old, recommending to friends and excited for the sequel.
6 reviews
February 24, 2021
Great depth of both character development and world building. Her writing style reminded me of Christopher Paolini and had me wanting more when I'd finished. Eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the series.
7 reviews
March 25, 2021
A gripping read from the outset! It was the moral/spiritual realism in a fantasy world that had me turning the pages. “You can’t defeat the darkness in this world when you haven’t defeated the darkness in yourself” - El.
Looking forward to the next one 🙏
Profile Image for Kimberly Van.
17 reviews
May 23, 2021
This is probably the best Christian fantasy book I've ever read. Amazing. Amazingly written. Amazing storyline. Pre-ordered the second book!
1,622 reviews
July 17, 2021
This book really took me on an adventure. I am not a big fantasy fan but I was up for something different. And this story surprised me in how it captured my attention with it's gripping violent world and the characters that I was so hoping would survive and find one another again.

So as the story begins, we have five people on the plane. The pilot, co-pilot, El, her brother Jonathan, and Emery. The very first line starts out with "Mayday...", so yeah this book was intense from the first word on as the these five must jump from the plane as it falls from the sky.

As we continue the story, somehow El has landed, grievously hurt, into another world. A world she is not familiar with and does not fit on our geography. It is backwards, almost medieval, and she is being tried for a crime she did not commit. This was pretty intense.

Anyway, this is a violent world with countries who neither trust nor like one another. Throw in the 'Outsiders' and worse things happen. All El knows is she is facing some major trials in wanting to know if the others survived and where are they?

I was dealing with a lot of questions myself. And apparently El was keeping a few close to her. This story pulled me in as I really wanted to know what was going on. Where and what was this fantasy land and what was happening on the earth before the plane crash. There was a lot of surprises and I am not sure how I feel about where this story is going. This is the first of a duology so not all questions are answered. I look forward to the next.

I was provided a copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

Profile Image for LAWonder10.
951 reviews739 followers
December 19, 2021
A Sword in His Hand was a very-well written, poignant tale. Five people, escaping from a modern world that has become corrupt beyond all reason, are in a plane caught in the Bermuda Triangle. They crash is an unknown world. Having to jump with parachutes, each land in a different place,
El awakes to find herself in a place where a couple of people try to help. However, it is a hostile place and soon her life is put in jeopardy, with only one family trying to save her.
From there on life is a living Hell. For every slight reprieve, more disaster and pain happens.
Torsten was a tall muscular man al the guards seem to fear, He was in heavy chains. El hated the cruelties and violence but found herself both admiring and respecting this man while at the same time hating him and detesting his violent reactions. Both he and El would die together.
There are many surprises and twists, constant adventure, love, loyalty, betrayal and brutality. The characters were portrayed in a way the reader felt he/she knew them. The scenes engulfed the reader in a way he/she felt a part of the story. It was easy to connect with the characters and their emotions.
The fast-paced novel captures the readers interest and is never boring. What I disliked was the sudden cliff-hanger ending. It felt the book was tore in half in the middle of a scenario.
Some may quickly order the second book of the duology, but it annoys me to the point of creating my own ending. Other than this, the book was great!

*This book was gifted me with no pressure for a positive review. This is my honest review.
Profile Image for Karley Conklin.
51 reviews2 followers
April 9, 2021
The Sword in His Hand is an action-packed adventure that will leave you eager for the sequel. Set in a kingdom hidden in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle, the novel follows the story of a girl from the modern world who’s thrust into the care of a hardened warrior on the path of revenge. El, Torsten, and their allies face the threat of capture and the dangers of the wilderness as they make their way to a rebel stronghold. Readers will be captivated by the beautiful landscapes, deadly foes, and true-to-life characters that El and her companions find along their journey.

This book’s peril-filled plot and engaging medieval-style setting are enough keep fantasy fans satisfied from start to finish. Even so, what really makes this book unique are the powerful themes woven throughout. J.J. Fisher fills her narrative with questions about forgiveness, trust, and loyalty. She raises moral dilemmas and explores the natural overflow of beliefs through her characters’ actions and their budding relationships.

If you enjoy a fast-paced, excitement filled novel with characters that pull at your heart, I highly recommend checking out J.J Fisher’s newest release.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Ambassador International in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.*
Profile Image for Faith.
1,727 reviews
March 21, 2022
Crash landing in a frightening new world El finds herself transported to another place where war is raging between two fractions drawn to the power of the Outside world that El represents.

An imaginative Speculative read that keeps you guessing along with the characters as they are thrust into the epicenter of a Civil War. Well written with vivid imagery and excellent world building. The tension builds throughout, setting up well for the 2nd half of the duology, and leaving me wanting more. El is strong young woman with strong convictions. She is stubborn, but compassionate, challenging Torsten's philosophies.

Torsten is a man hardened by 9 years of slave labor, the heir to a rebellion and a natural leader. He is intrigued by El and the secrets of her world.

Overall, an engaging read, great for fans of fantasy or sci-fi, with threads of faith throughout. I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen next, as well as watching the characters continue to grow over the course of the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Dave Hayes.
11 reviews
September 14, 2022
I came across J.J. Fischer through reading some of her articles on Fiction and Fantasy writing on The Gospel Coalition Australia website.

I had not read (or really considered) Christian Fiction before this, and at the same time I began writing what is probably Chrisitian Fiction!

On reading 'The sword in his hand' I found it to be excellent. The Christian themes are well written, the characters are well developed and so the 'gospel' moments never felt out of place or forced on the story. The narrative is exciting and interesting. It was encouraging to see how the main character wrestled with her sin and doubt, ending up with a deeper and richer faith. It was fun and encouraging!

Also, quick word to any blokes who might feel this is just christian romance... the sword fights are awesome :-)
3 reviews
September 27, 2021
This book was wonderful. A great fantasy plot with gut wrenching characters and shocking twists. I loved reading this book and promptly bought the second one. My only complaint with this book that stopped it being a five star is how it took me a while to read (completely different for each person) some parts felt slow, but overall this book was brilliant, and would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a perfectly heart stopping fantasy. Also a certain twist left me sobbing, not sure I can get over that so yeah. x
2 reviews
September 27, 2021
I am not normally a fantasy reader of any kind. It's just not my genre. While tentative to start reading, within a page or two I was captured by the author's ability to transport me into a world so different to my own. Each character is built beautifully even when their human pitfalls are revealed. This first book in Fischer's duology is quite dark and you are left with a heaviness at the end but at the same time, a yearning to know what happens next. If you're a fantasy novice like me, ensure that this read is your first experience into this world.
2 reviews
July 4, 2021
Wow, I loved this book! I couldn't put it down. I loved the mixing of two different 'worlds' and time periods. The characters are fantastic and the story kept me guessing the whole way. The world-building is wonderful, I just wanted to keep reading more - bring on book 2!!
2 reviews
September 26, 2021
I thoroughly enjoyed part one and was excited to have part two ready to go. As a binge reader, I couldn’t put it down. It had me at the foreword, and didn’t let me go. Great characters and storyline. I often asked myself ‘how are they gonna get out of this?!’ A great read. Thanks Jasmine
2 reviews11 followers
September 28, 2021
Such a wonderful and refreshing read - I loved getting my head around all the names and places, and the characters drew me in! A book to get lost in but also learn from - I loved it from start to finish xoxo
2 reviews
October 27, 2021
Very enjoyable read, keeps you involved. For those that have only read this first book, the second book finishes it off and brings it all together to reveal the underlying truth and reality we all must face.
Profile Image for Elly.
186 reviews
July 4, 2021
I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this book ... I'll have to read the 2nd in the series to determine if I like it. I need a happy ending!
Profile Image for Virginia Lee.
1,516 reviews28 followers
July 12, 2021
This was a wonderful twist of different worlds fantasy. This book keep me on the edge and unable to put down with all the wonderful characters and story
Profile Image for Melissa J. Troutman.
Author 3 books7 followers
June 22, 2022
If you’re in the market for well-written, clean, and intriguing Christian fantasy with deep themes, realistic romance, and plenty of action and adventure, may I suggest the Darcentaria Duology by J. J. Fischer. Through a unique blend of 20th-century history and medieval fantasy, Fischer reimagines the classic story of Ben-Hur into a two-book saga of vengeance, love, forgiveness, and freedom.

I could not put these books down. I read The Sword in His Hand in two or three days and finished The Secret of Fire not long after. I could go on about the writing, the plot, the cast, the worldbuilding, and the themes, but I feel like I talk about those elements in all my book reviews, so I’m going to focus on what sets these good books apart from other good books I’ve read:

First, the context. While the story takes place in the medieval fantasy kingdoms of Darcentaria, these kingdoms are couched in the “real world” during World War II. I’m not always a fan of the real-world-meets-fantasy-world trope, but in these books it worked, and it worked really well. While we never see World War II directly, we see it indirectly in several of the characters, their backstories, and their struggles, along with a few other glimpses in Darcentaria itself.

The upheaval and carnage of WWII provide such a powerful backdrop for—and mirror of—the power struggles, racial division, and divided loyalties of the fantasy kingdoms, not to mention the fascinating exploration of technology and its effects on civilization. Rather than just giving a greater context for the fantasy world, this parallel setting contributes to the story itself in profound ways. What struck me was seeing how humanity is the same whether in a medieval kingdom or in a modern nation.

Second, the faith. The two main characters have their own faith journeys, each very different but just as powerful and realistic as the other. Most importantly, each journey is relatable. No matter where you are in your own faith, you can find connecting points with either character (or perhaps both) as they navigate life and its moral and spiritual challenges, no matter what world they’re from.

What I loved most was how Fischer wove the gospel message into her fantasy. I’m leery of stories that combine true faith with make-believe worlds, but the way Fischer’s characters lived, shared, and responded to the Christian faith in the fantasy world was purely beautiful. I always enjoy defamiliarization (making the familiar strange in order to garner a fresh appreciation for it), and the ways Fischer showed Jesus, the gospel message, and other Bible truths to the foreign culture and characters of Darcentaria gave me a new perspective of some things I’ve known my whole life.

Third, the romance. I mention this because I’m not a romance reader—I enjoy books that have some romance in them, but I don’t go for romance plots. In this duology, I would say the plot is equal parts romance and adventure, and I found myself equally intrigued by both. What I appreciated most was the realism of the romance, in its pros and its cons—each character has plenty of obstacles to overcome to fully understand and love the other, while every step of their deepening relationship shows another aspect of the beauty and power of true, sacrificial love.

It’s worth noting here that while these books are clean, they don’t shy away from the gritty side of reality, romantic or otherwise. There are past relationships, affairs, secrets, desire, and violence. The main character is nearly raped twice, and several characters suffer a significant amount of abuse. The author keeps the “on-screen” details sparse, if included at all, but for the general presence of mature themes I recommend these books to older teens and above.

A few final comments: the cast contains an equal balance of male and female characters, in lead and support roles, with a refreshing variety of personalities, ethnicities, backstories, and motives. The plot is more twisty-turny and interconnected than a plate of spaghetti, and the narrative itself is a showcase of creative writing. And the worldbuilding details are spot-on. As a medieval fantasy writer myself who’s done lots of research, I was thrilled to recognize quite a few of the details that brought the setting to life and enriched the story.

I honestly don’t know how these books are the author’s debut novels—in my opinion, they’re the quality of a magnum opus. Whether you’re a Christian or not, I highly recommend the Darcentaria Duology as books worth reading. I’ve had my first taste of J. J. Fischer, and I’m a big fan. I can’t wait for her next books!
Profile Image for Chelsea.
823 reviews9 followers
November 7, 2022
I really enjoyed this one! I loved the setting and how mysterious it all is, right from the start. I had so many questions, but enough get answered as the story goes along that it isn't frustrating -it's fascinating! And the characters are all very well developed. I was worried the romance would be rushed, but it was very well paced (instalove is a pet peeve of mine). And the themes of war (when is it necessary, how far should it go, etc.) are a nice addition to the MCs and their struggles. Some of it is predictable, but there are still some good surprises along the way. And I can't wait to find out what happens -I'm definitely picking up the sequel right away!

I received this book free from the publisher/author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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