First of a fantasy trilogy, from the author of Mid-Flinx (1995), etc. The tall herdsman/warrior Etjole Ehomba of the Naumkib tribe lives by the sea. When a number of strange warriors wash up dead on the sand, only the nobleman Tarin Beckwith survives long enough to whisper a dying request: It seems that the Visioness Themaryl of Laconda has been abducted by Hymneth the Possessed and carried off to the remote land of Ehl-Larimar. Etjole accepts the dead man’s entreaty to rescue her, and sets off on a very long journey. Etjole speaks the languages of animals, his bearing is courteous, his aspect modest and reasonable, and he solves problems by negotiation. A friendly snake provides him with an immunity to poison. He acquires a sidekick, the garrulous treasure-hunter Simna Ibn Sind. He outfaces a sentient tornado to save Ahlitah, a large black cat that, feeling obligated, joins the expedition. Finally, after various adventures involving floating ponds, dolphins, tiny warriors, a hostile animated sand dune, the mirage-palace of a soul-eater, and a gigantic walking wall, he’s menaced by the evil, light-eating eromakadi; fortunately, being an eromakadi himself (one who eats darkness), Etjole simply inhales the eromakadi. Inventive and packed with flavorsome incident, but lacking propellant: a pleasant but far from compelling saunter.