An unnamed man wakes to find himself facing the loss of everything that matters most to him. Against all odds, he escapes with his life and heads out into the turbulence of the wider world, recreating himself, step by step, as he goes along. That wider world is dominated by an empire that has existed for decades in a state of near perpetual war. A host of colorful characters will help to shape the destiny of the empire, and its constantly shifting array of allies and adversaries; among them, a master military strategist, a former pacifist who inherits his father's moribund arms business, a beautiful forger, and a very lucky counterfeiter. Each of them, together with corrupt bureaucrats and the nomadic 'savages' of the title, plays a part in a gradually unfolding drama of conflict and conquest played for the highest of stakes.