A direct sequel to Hambly's earlier Darwath trilogy (The Time of the Dark, 1984, paperback original), about a fantasy world beset by evil forces (but what fantasy world isn't?) and featuring two transplanted Californians, the mage Rudy Solis and the warrior Gil Patterson. Chronologically, five years have passed since the last novel--although if you haven't read the trilogy, much (Hambly's unnerving blend of technology and magic, for example, such as spellcasting recorded on videotape) will remain mysterious. The folk of the Keep of Dare in Renweth now face starvation as a ubiquitous horrid white growth, ""slunch,"" immune to magic and physical attack, permits nothing else to grow; also, the climate is cooling. Worse, anything that eats the slunch metamorphoses into a ghastly monster. Rudy and the old Archmage, Ingold Inglorion, find that the entire ecological onslaught is directed by three ice-mages and their queen, the Mother of Winter; their magic, on a different wavelength than Ingold's, can't be stopped. Ingold and Gil--she's been ensorcelled by the ice-mages to kill Ingold--travel south to battle the ice-mages while Rudy studies recordings of spells cast by the long-ago mage known as the Bald Lady. And the starving people of the Keep, now eating slunch, not only are transformed but become slaves of the ice-mages. Hambly's most disagreeable habit is interrupting her conversation with paragraphs of exposition or description, making it hard to follow who's saying what, and why. There are no plot surprises, yet the yarn's peppered with intriguing ideas--most given no more than a cursory exploration. Frustrating.