The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild.
But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to recreate the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession.
Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of the greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history.
Set in a fantastical world that is both welcomingly familiar and excitingly unique, The Empire's Ghost shows nobles and commoners alike struggling to survive and maintain power in an ever changing, chaotic world.
Steiger's enjoyable epic fantasy debut weaves in and out of the lives of people on all sides of the struggle to determine the destiny of a continent. A tavern kitchen boy and his friends accidentally get tangled in the affairs of Emperor Elgar, who's trying to decide whether to turn his conquering ambitions on the kingdom of Reglay or the country of Esthrades. The boy king of Reglay seeks allies, and the marquise of Esthrades seeks power in more arcane ways, which leads her principal servant, Seren Almasy, into a chance encounter with the hapless protagonist. Steiger handles a complex plot and a multitude of viewpoints neatly and well. Revelations about the world and the characters are placed at suspenseful intervals, and the story raises many interesting questions that remain unanswered. Unfortunately, this series launch has no conclusion of its own but simply stops, and most of it is spent setting up events and revelations that readers will have no opportunity to experience until the next book is published. Steiger's talent does make this less frustrating overall than it otherwise might be, but the lack of emotional payoff in this installment is very noticeable.