The Rightful Queen: An improvement over the first book

The Rightful Queen: A Novel (Paths of Lantistyne Book 2) The Rightful Queen by Isabelle SteigerThe Rightful Queen by Isabelle Steiger

The Rightful Queen (2020) is the sequel to 2017’s The Empire’s Ghost and the second in Isabelle Steiger’s PATHS OF LANTISTYNE series. It continues the story of the many aristocrats and commoners who oppose Imperator Elgar, who is trying to reunite the old Elesthene empire under his own rule.

The Empire’s Ghost was solid, smoothly written, and intriguing, but the characters were a bit thin and I didn’t feel compelled to devour the book quickly.

Some of these issues remain in the sequel. We learn more about the characters, but I can’t say they felt deeper or more wholly realized. The revelations are more straightforward and often a bit more bluntly revealed than I prefer, and also can be predictable, whether it’s a relationship (or two) that forms (as one character says, “I suppose I ought to have seen that much earlier”), a reunion that occurs, etc.

The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger

Book 1

The characters remain (mostly) enjoyably interesting individually or in their interplay (even if I more than once still felt like yelling “will no one rid me of this troubling smirk” in any given Arianrod chapter), but I wouldn’t call characterization the strength of this series. They remain a bit thin, though the potential is there for more body, and I found myself at times wishing Steiger had sacrificed a few characters so we could spend more quality time with a few who seemed particularly ripe for richer portrayals. Especially as there are a few times where Steiger shows herself quite able to create some moving, quiet personal moments.

Instead I’d say the plot is the best part of The Rightful Queen, even if I had some minor issues with some of it, such as when things seemed a bit easy or convenient. But I enjoyed the sheer multiplicity of threads, becoming enmeshed in the tracery of so many story lines, some converging and some not (at least not yet).

The pace remains slow, and I can easily see some finding it too slow, but I have to say that The Rightful Queen, and the series as a whole, really grew on me as I read. The deft manner Steiger weaves so many storylines together so seamlessly really makes for a smooth ride, and even if various parts of The Rightful Queen aren’t all that original (it is a genre novel after all), I found myself happily reading along. If book one was “solid,” the sequel is “good with room for improvement.” Luckily, the step up from book one to book two bodes well for the next one.

Published in 2020. The second book in Isabelle Steiger’s epic fantasy series, which weaves together the lives of the haves and the have-nots―both desperately fighting to reassemble the remains of a fallen empire. The Rightful Queen returns readers to the territories of Lantistyne. Imperator Elgar has brought war to the continent once again, and the rogues of the Dragon’s Head, once forced into his service, are scattered to the winds, wracked by tragedy and struggling to reunite. While a cornered King Kelken grows increasingly desperate, Arianrod Margraine, the brilliant but outmanned marquise of Esthrades, devises a plan to stretch Elgar’s forces thin and turn the tide of battle in their favor. But when the sheltered queen of Issamira is driven from her throne by a long-simmering plot and the use of forbidden magic, Arianrod faces an even more pressing crisis. Adora Avestri is more than the rightful queen of Issamira, more even than the key to defeating Elgar on the field―she has drawn the attention of beings older than Lantistyne itself, who possess hidden knowledge Arianrod has long desired. But if the queen and the marquise hope to survive long enough to learn it, Adora must find the strength to claim her birthright once and for all, and Arianrod must match wits and magic with a foe she has never before encountered: an equal. The Rightful Queen is another example of Isabelle Steiger’s powerful writing, full of intricate characters and complex world-building.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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