Shen Tai, the second son of a renowned general of Kitai, is given a lavish gift of 250 prized Sardian horses from the Kitan Empress of the neighbouring Taguran Empire to honour his work burying the dead of both sides at a battleground in the far west of Kitai still haunted by the ghosts of the slain soldiers. This extraordinary gift threatens to engulf Shen Tai in the political and dynastic struggles that surround the throne of the Kitan Emperor, but also permits Shen Tai to form friendships and gain access to the most powerful figures in Kitai. Narrowly escaping an assassination attempt with the assistance of the ghosts of the unburied, Shen Tai leaves the battleground on the western frontier to journey toward the capital, Xinan, protected by Wei Song, a female Kanlin warrior. Another line of narrative follows Shen Tai’s sister Li-Mei who is sent north to be married off to a leader of the northern Bog? for the purposes of advancing the career interests of Shen Liu, their older brother. Shen Tai must determine a way forward for himself, which involves making choices between personal, family and imperial needs, choices which become all the more perilous when Kitai is convulsed by a military rebellion that threatens the ruling dynasty. The story weaves themes of loss, chance, honour and friendship in a world still haunted by magic.