The existence of magic in a story offers so many possibilities for how characters might overcome obstacles, relate to one another, manipulate the fabric of their worlds, and express who they truly are. But magic has to have limits, too, or any story whose protagonist comes to possess it would end in that instant, with an effortless and consequence-free fix of all their problems. Magic can be difficult to acquire, challenging to master, or simply limited in what it can do. But I’m drawn to stories in which the hardest thing about magic is the price you have to pay for it—whether that price was chosen freely, stumbled into accidentally, or inflicted against your will.
Fiction and Excerpts 
Series: Five Books About…
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.
Isabelle Steiger’s The Empire’s Ghost is the first book in a haunting new epic fantasy series—available now from Thomas Dunne Books.
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