In the dungeons-and-dragons tradition, a competently written adventure with nonstop action and little to say beyond its primary level. Sole survivor of the destruction of his woodland village by the regional lord, Mephtik (the Poisoner), Jarral (12) is caught, marked with the dread weapon, and told he will die in agony a month hence at the rising of the full moon. He falls in with three people of Talent: Archer, who is a giant woman of marvelous aim; Scythe, who appears blind but actually ""sees"" with supernatural accuracy; and Mandra, who can make forms seem to change. Supported from a distance by Cryl--a wizard who possesses the true magic--they journey to Mephtik's city and engage in a mighty battle in which Mephtik, a mighty demon (Flameroc), and the sword are all destroyed, thus saving Jarral (who proves to have the most important talent of all) in the nick of time. At book's end, they are setting out on a greater quest, to rescue Cryl and challenge the Enemy--Mephtik and Flameroc's evil master. Though not sensational, the story consists almost entirely of the contest against unmitigated evil, vividly described. Poison is everywhere; tortures are frequently suggested, and not left entirely to the imagination; words like ""torment,"" ""demonic,"" ""evil,"" ""terrible,"" and ""threatening"" abound. It's a struggle between good and evil, but the good side as presented embodies no moral order higher than loyalty and magical talents. As Jarral says at the end, ""We're just riding along, going nowhere, waiting for something horrible to happen!