From the author of Converts (1985), Deathhunter (1986), and the cosmic trilogy concluded with The Book of Being (1986): a chess-magic fantasy quite unlike any of the foregoing. Watson's notion, expanded from story form, is far from original, but he presents and develops it beautifully. Bellogard (white) and Chorny (black) are locked in magical combat; their Kings, Queens, Princes (rooks), Bishops, Knights, and Squires (pawns) make their magical attacks according to the corresponding moves on a chessboard. Appropriately enough, the magical language is Russian. Young Peredino of Bellogard is found to have magical ability and is elevated to Squire. In the city of Bellogard, he discovers a spy, Sara (she's posing as a whore). In the process of cultivating her, Peredino falls in love--but Sara turns out to be mt enemy Squire of Chorny, and her presence presages a magical attack: Peredino kills an enemy Bishop, yet allows Sara to escape. Presently, in a retaliatory move, Peredino is sent to Chorny, where another magical battle eventuates--but the outcome is so devastating that the current Bellogard/ Chorny cycle of existence comes to an end. Fascinating and convincing stuff--but then the wheels fall off. Peredino and Sara escape the collapse of Bellogard/Chorny by journeying into other worlds where the magical game-rules--impossible to take seriously--are determined by, variously, snakes and ladders, monopoly, and go. But these worlds collapse, too, so Peredino and Sara end up back in a reconstituted Bellogard/Chorny--though now with full knowledge of the previous incarnation. Two-thirds well articulated, persuasive chess-magic, one third frivolous overextension. Your move.