The Empire’s Ghost – Book Review

Paths of Lantistyne #1 By: Isabelle Steiger
Published On: May 16, 2017

*May contain spoilers*

Before picking up this epic fantasy novel, I did what I often do when attempting to decide if the book in question is one that I would want to read: I took a look at other reviews. Overwhelming, what I read over and over again was that there was a large cast of characters that left some confused during reading. For me, I generally like to read fantasies with large casts so when I got the book I dug right in. To help anyone who is considering this book determine if there are too many characters for their own preference I have attempted to create a list of the more major characters and their kingdoms or groups. My copy of the book did not contain this type of list, so I am hoping that the publisher will consider this in future books in the series.

Dragon’s Head (A tavern in town of Sheath): The Dragon’s Head is owned by Morgan Imrick and is what would be considered the heart or home of the story. It’s the most predominant location in the first half of the book as the story starts out not by focusing on kings and other royalty in their castles, but instead with a group of rag-tag friends who hang around the local pub. Characters are: Deinol, Lucius, Seth, Roger, Braddock, Morgan Imrick

Esthrades: Lady Margraine rules the land of Esthrades after the death of her father. Out of all the characters in the book, she is the one I found most intriguing: a character I was never sure if I should trust or distrust. I never knew if I liked her or didn’t like her. She definitely has a secret that you sense almost from the beginning that leaves you wondering what you are supposed to think of her through-out the story. If this were a movie, I’d call her a scene-stealer because she is someone you are always watching and makes the room more interesting just be being in it. Others at Esthrades are: Seren Almasy and Gravis

Hallarnon: Imperator Elgar is the character I was surprised by the most. With the book description describing him as a dictator, I was expecting to absolutely hate him. I was expecting him to be one-dimensional. With his goal of wanting to conquer all lands and neighboring kingdoms and place them under his control, it couldn’t be more obvious that he wants power and more power. But then he’ll do something that seems ‘slightly’ out of character for a dictator and demonstrates that he knows how to stop and think first. That there are calculations going on in the back of his head that you wish you were privy to. His actions and conversations had me watching him almost as closely as I did Lady Margraine. Others at Hallarnon are: Varalen and Shinsei

Reglay: This is the kingdom you truly like as individuals. They are decent in how they treat each other and how they treat others. Some will say that Prince Kel has “weak legs,” but he likes to think that they are “just stupid – they didn’t understand what they were supposed to do.” Alessa, his sister has coughing fits making traveling to certain locations dangerous for her. While Elgar schemes, and Lady Margraine calculates, Prince Kel has a very sharp mind and plays the game of politics better than anyone might expect. At Reglay are: King Kelken, Prince Kel, Alessa, Cadfael

Issamira: This is a land that is only referenced, but is seen by the other kingdoms to be in a calm-before-the-storm status. Prince Landon and heir to the Issamira throne is missing and presumed dead, creating an opportunity for his siblings to not follow hierarchical structure and grab the throne by force. Nothing has happened yet, but there is a lot of talk and speculation.

One issue I had that occurred mostly at the beginning was how the narrative switched between the different players and kingdoms in the book. This is not due to there being too many characters. Instead, my copy of the book did not include separators of any kind when switching from one group of people/locations to another. One paragraph I am with Shinsei in one location. The very next paragraph I’m with Gravis somewhere completely different. It caused quite a bit of confusion as I was still attempting to learn everyone. I hoping this is due to my electronic version of the book and is not in the final copy. But if not, I do recommend to the publishers to add a separator of some kind between scenes/locations, or subheadings that tell me where I am. Eventually, I went to the audio book, which is when I didn’t notice anymore.

Overall, a book I very much enjoyed and look forward to the next one in the series when it comes out.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.


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 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. 

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