Sequel to the grim but often momentous saga Starkadder (1987). This one, less heavy and doom-laden, approaches conventional if handsomely embellished sword and sorcery. Hather Lambisson, who fought with the late Starkadder as he was killed by the evil dwarf-sword Tyrfing, is now a famous hero and enjoys the grudging respect of King Oli Yngling. But a new danger stalks prehistorical Sweden: the vargr, a sorcery-created creature that must eat 13 living hearts in order to become an immortal vessel of horror. Oli secretly schemes to rid himself of the popular Hather and the bothersome Danes by allying himself with the vargr. Meanwhile, the dwarf-king Alvis desperately searches for the lost Tyrfing, which he must soon touch to renew his life-force, or die. And, behind the scenes, the god Odin contends delicately with the old woman, Skuld, one of the Fates, over the future of the Yngling dynasty. But who has created the wolf-masked vargr, and why? And who was the vargr before it began its heart-munching career--and why has it kidnapped Hather's young son and then challenged Hather to follow? The plotting here is knottily fascinating and often brilliant. Alas, then, for the absurdly overblown melodramatics and poorly visualized action scenes. On balance, a shade better than mediocre, but rewarding enough for Starkadder fans.