House fiction for roleplaying games tends to be lukewarm and lackluster. The Clan War series for Legend of the Five Rings had been better than expected, with only one exception ("The Unicorn"). "The Steel Throne" surpasses the rest overall.
This is the story of the Spirit Wars, in which the spirits of the dead return to the world of the living in the (more or less mortal) flesh. The people of Rokugan (a fantasy empire based heavily on feudal Japan) revere their ancestors, and so are in turmoil over the return of those ancestors. Among the spirits that returned were Hantei XVI, paranoid megalomaniac Emperor from long ago, and Hida Tsuneo, aka The Stone Crab, his loyal (if not loving) servant and general.
The schism between the mortals of the present age, sworn to the service of Emperor Toturi I, and the returned spirits, whose loyalties still lie with the Hantei dynasty, grows ever greater throughout the book. This one has sword fights, hopeless battles, true love, tests of courage, human weakness, and more Machiavellian plots than you can shake a stick at.
Fans of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG and RPG will be delighted, as will any reader of good fantasy fiction. This sets the groundwork for the Winds saga, in which the heirs of Toturi contend for the Steel Throne of Rokugan. Read on, MacDuff!