DiscoverYoung Adult Fantasy

A Step Through The Empty


Loved it! 😍

This rich, and inventive alternate world offers the perfect reader's escape! Author H.E. Salian presents an exciting series fantasy debut.


Brynte Godric quickly learns being crowned king was the easy part. Keeping that crown is what’s dangerous.
With everyone from a world-ruling organization to his mother after the crown, Bry has a lot of fighting ahead. So he’s surprised the arranged marriage to the shy young Princess Stori goes better than expected. With it, he has averted one war. Now on to the next. His only hope is staying one step ahead while keeping his kingdom from turning against him too.
Amid all that chaos, how bad can one more assassin and a genius hacker thrown into the mix really be?

Author H.E. Salian presents an exciting series debut with A Step Through The Empty. This novel invites readers into an inventive world where characters must make the most of unprecedented circumstances. I was instantly captivated by the narrative approach the author takes, and the details of the Caeleptan universe. 

This book explores the journey of Brynte Godric, the newly-crowned King of the Medius Sphaere, as he struggles to repair the mess of a Kingdom his tyrannical father, Vlasis, left behind. In an effort to eliminate one of the many emerging wars between Sphaeres, Brynte arranges a marriage with Princess Istoria of Sylva. As Brynte and Stori become familiar with their new roles (and with each other), they learn that preserving order and keeping the crown comes with tremendous challenges.

When Brynte catches wind that a once-vanquished organization, Oracaede, is still in operation, and that their agenda threatens his rule, the new king is faced with the struggle of keeping his throne without sacrificing his beliefs. Can he be more than just his cruel father’s son? Can he stay one step ahead of all of his enemies? One must read the story to find out! 

One of my favorite elements of this novel is the sheer uniqueness of the world Salian creates! I found myself fascinated with the intricacies of the universe, as well as the level of artistry that came with introducing readers to this world. There was so much intention placed into when readers learned the details of the empty and sphaeres. While at times I was hoping for more information sooner in the novel, I appreciated the approach taken in setting up her story.

Likewise, this book is unique in that it explores the unfolding narrative from all character perspectives. Chapters provide context from major and minor players, and the end result is a strong, well-rounded narrative. This truly allows the author to excel in balancing character and plot development, and creates a slow-release conflict that simmers and builds throughout the novel. 

What kept this read from earning a fifth star for me was the character dialogue, though. The inconsistency between formal and informal phrasing read awkwardly for me. What could have been meaningful conversations and opportunities for further character development fell flat. Salian does a tremendous job in creating opportunities for characters to shine and speak, however the execution of that dialogue didn’t always follow through. 

As the first installment in a fantasy series, this is only the beginning of Brynte’s story. I found myself demanding answers and more page space by the book’s final chapters, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to seeing where Salian takes this trilogy. 

Reviewed by

Hi! I'm Kayla, one of the co-founders of Queens of Coffee and Canon. I am a High School English teacher working in Chicago Illinois, and I'm a lover of all things books! I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, but personally enjoy Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Fantasy!


Brynte Godric quickly learns being crowned king was the easy part. Keeping that crown is what’s dangerous.
With everyone from a world-ruling organization to his mother after the crown, Bry has a lot of fighting ahead. So he’s surprised the arranged marriage to the shy young Princess Stori goes better than expected. With it, he has averted one war. Now on to the next. His only hope is staying one step ahead while keeping his kingdom from turning against him too.
Amid all that chaos, how bad can one more assassin and a genius hacker thrown into the mix really be?

Princess Istoria watched as her home disappeared and the Empty closed behind her. She squeezed her eyes closed to block out the nightmare, to awaken. She breathed in, out, and waited. The carriage jostled and her father’s voice carried on with the same conversation as before. Stori opened her eyes and forced a small smile as she pretended to listen.

King Tristram’s frown was unconvinced when he glanced at her. 

“I know this is hard, darling,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

Stori nodded but glanced away from the pinched expression on his face. She might give up and cry again if she had to witness how much this was hurting her father too. 

“I would have wished for any other solution, any that didn’t require this sacrifice from you, if I believed one existed,” the king continued.

“Father, I know.” Stori turned to him and grabbed his free hand. “You wouldn’t wish this.” She relaxed her grip as she ducked her head again. “There are limited ways for us to resolve this conflict before it reaches all-out war.”

“I just wish there was a better solution than marrying you off to that bastard of a king.” King Tristram clenched his fists as his rage began to surface again. “Whatever kind of king that bastard Vlasis’s son turns out to be.”

Stori nodded again, but it didn’t stop a few built up tears from escaping down her face.

“I’m sorry, Stori darling, I didn’t mean for this…” He stroked her hair. “I didn’t mean for any of this responsibility to fall to you.”

“Father, it is my duty now.” She mumbled again, pulling out her handkerchief to clean her face of the tears. She stared at the piece of cloth with its embroidered N written in fanciful calligraphy.

Mother wouldn’t have cried for this. The thought made her stomach turn as another tear escaped. She would have been strong.

Silence filled the carriage again and settled across the caravan. Stori returned to staring out at the void space, lost in her own thoughts.

A scream echoed through the blackness from the front of the line. Glancing at her father, Stori saw he was already opening the door and calling to the driver for information. More screams rang out, louder and closer than the first. 

Stori heard the king shouting orders but she couldn’t make out the words he was saying. His white-knuckled hand gripped the carriage door. Finally, one word reached her ears—Shades. That was enough to make her blood freeze as she moved closer to her father.

The carriage lurched with force enough to knock Stori against the seat. The king sat back down with the same ungraceful effect. He grabbed an AaD from its place under the seat and began smashing at the screen of the tablet, inputting commands.

A sharp turn threw Stori back again as the carriage adjusted course without slowing down. Stori pressed her face against the window and could barely make out the other carriages following behind.

“Father?” She pulled away from the glass and turned around. 

King Tristram was still typing furiously and cursing in a quiet voice. Stori turned back to the window. A ball of fire lit up the distance from where they had come. Clapping a hand over her mouth, Stori tried counting the number of carriages behind them. 

Six? I must have miscounted

She hoped desperately and started counting again. The fire faded in the distance and darkness returned all around. She counted seven this time. Still less than half of their caravan.

She sat back in her seat and prayed more of the carriages made it. She prayed Leha’s carriage had made it. She couldn’t go through whatever misery awaited her in her new life without her faithful maidservant and friend.

A light spread in front of the carriage as Tristram used the AaD to open a doorway. The carriage raced through before the driver could even pull them into a slower pace. Stori had barely blinked and they’d already put distance between them and the doorway. She turned around and quickly counted again. Seven carriages followed them through before the doorway shut. Stori’s stomach knotted at the low number, but she breathed a sigh of relief that Leha’s carriage was one of the few which made it. 

“Darling?” Stori jerked toward her father when she realized he was talking to her. The king rested a hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze as his eyes continued searching her face. She supposed he had asked her a question and was waiting for an answer.

“I’m fine.” She lied, hoping her stomach wouldn’t betray her. “What happened?”

The king took in a deep breath and released it with slow deliberation. “It was a Shade.” He paused and waited for her to nod before continuing. “It attacked the front scout and carriages first, which is the only reason we got away. If it had attacked anywhere else in our caravan, its damned powers would have affected us too.”

Stori nodded again with a frown that didn’t soften. “I thought…” She waited for her father’s attention to return to her. “I thought Shades didn’t travel often, especially not through the Empty.” She made a conscious effort not to bite her lip even as she was trembling. “What in all the seven sphaeres would it go in there?” 

The king’s jaw tightened hard enough to crack a tooth. He stared out at the space in Medius they now found themselves sitting in. His expression darkened.

“You don’t think the Median king…” Stori trailed off as her throat tightened against the thought of the man she was to marry.

“Silence, Istoria.” Her father’s tone was enough to silence her. It was also enough to assume he agreed with her.

Stori nodded and cursed her fiancé in her head. There would be no proof the Shade was his doing, but it was something the former king of Medius, Vlasis, used to do. Stori cursed her poor luck to be marrying the Median.

King Tristram pulled up the tablet again and glared at the screen for a long moment. “We are still about 35 met-reaches from the capital. We should be there by midday.”

Closing her eyes, Stori attempted to steady her breath and, if possible, her mind and stomach as the uneven ground made for an uncomfortable ride.

“Darling.” King Tristram waited for Stori to open her eyes and look at him before continuing. “If you’d prefer, when we get to the castle, I will have you brought up to your private suite immediately. That way you won’t have to meet him right away.”

Stori sniffled in relief at not having to face the man she would marry just yet. “I would not want to cause you any trouble in explaining my absence,” she mumbled, hoping her father would disagree.

Tristram shook his head with a smile. “It has been a trying day. I will make the Median king understand you need your rest and that he should not even consider disturbing you.”

Stori nodded with her best excuse for a smile before closing her eyes again.

About the author

H. E. Salian is the author of the new series The Vis Remaining beginning with the book A Step Through The Empty. She lives in the greater Seattle area when not traveling or getting lost. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, welding, and feeble attempts at creating art. view profile

Published on April 20, 2020

Published by

120000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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