The scene is the Sacramento Valley after years of genetic and other disaster. The land and its inhabitants have been poisoned beyond redemption, but not before a vitally induced mutation has given some humans and animals a few advantages, including the ability to regenerate destroyed tissue--but at the cost of further genetic damage. A marauding gang called the Pirates roves the area, taking over the few remaining settlements and hunting down the hated mutants. The plot revolves around two mutants, the resourceful Thea and the former Pirate leader Montague, who strike into the ravaged Sierra Nevada from Chico to Lake Tahoe in a doomed search for safety and Shelter. This is one of Yarbro's better efforts: the love story is occasionally moving, and the trek through the blighted landscape is handled with a wealth of commanding detail. As in the less successful Time of the Fourth Horseman (1976), she opts to leave her characters hanging in one of those pessimists-into-the-sunset endings--a pity, because the story seems to ask for something more clear-cut. Pretty good, with excellent patches.