Anne Rice's older sister, an energetic scene-setter, winds up her two-volume saga of tenth-century Europe begun with 1995's Devoted. A romance with elements of fantasy, Devoted told of the clash between Christianity and paganism. A raiding party of Vikings invaded the bishopric of Chantalon. Facing them were Chantalon's 23-year-old bishop, Owen, and his wife, Lady Elin of the Forest People, a pagan witch who called forth storms to drown the invaders. Borchardt wades into her sequel now with the returned Northmen trying to take charge of the river on which Chantalon lies. Owen and Elin discover this while they are out spying, looking over the Northmen's winter buildup for a spring offensive. Each page of Borchardt's relentless novel is composed of three parts gripping research and description to one part plot: A great deal of action is required to keep the narrative lively, and Borchardt supplies it. Movie stunts invade the script as well, with an unlikely swordfight between Owen and the Viking Hakon staged in the mud. Though Elin's witch-powers help rescue Owen from the Northmen, who have their own witches, she becomes pregnant after being raped by a Viking, while, throughout, she and Owen waver between ardor and recriminations. Since Chantalon hasn't enough men to defend itself for long, much less launch an attack against Hakon, Owen goes off to Britanny in search of allies, where he's offered help if he'll renounce Elin and marry a nobleman's daughter. Desperate, he agrees. Meanwhile, Hakon sends 12 berserkers to kill Owen and to steal Gynneth, Owen's bride. Although Owen (befriended by a philosopher magician, Elutides) slays the 12, Hakon nevertheless captures Elin, who's about to give birth, causing Owen to return for a final showdown with the Viking. Skulls split down to the teeth while hormonal interplay again reaches the same pulsing soft-porn hazes as in Devoted. Basically a lusty romance, with a gory overlay of duels and ambushes.