A fantasy novel set in McKiernan's ""Mithgar,"" very much of a piece with the others in this popular series (The Voyage of the Fox Rider, 1993, etc). The one at hand is a generic adventure that might come straight from a role-playing game, right down to the opening scene, where our intrepid heroines Lady Arin and Aiko (an elf and a female samurai) enter a disreputable tavern in search of a one-eyed man, in fulfillment of an obscure prophecy. They end up with not one but two candidates: the local drunk, Alos, and a recently wounded warrior, Egil. Lacking grounds to choose between the two, Lady Arin decides to bring both along on her quest. We are then treated to a long flashback detailing the prophecy and the nature of the mission, on which, as usual, the Fate of the World depends. A mysterious talisman, entrusted to the order of Mages by the dragons of the world, has disappeared, and the elf and her companions are charged with finding it. So off they go into an episodic plot full of trolls, bards, mages, battles, escapes, a raging maelstrom, and, yes, dragons--adding new members to the company and learning more about the meaning of the prophecy along the way. The narrative too often resembles the random encounters generated by gaming dice, with just enough twists to stave off utter boredom. It doesn't help that some of the characters speak in a pastiche of Elizabethan English, others in stereotyped low rustic, still others in featureless modern dialect. McKiernan's bestseller status shows that there's an audience for this sort of work, and they will undoubtedly flock to his latest. But there is little to suggest that the author has grown in either craft or vision since his earliest attempts at ersatz Tolkien. Fresh fodder for the addicted; others can safely skip it.