On a planet where all animal species are telepathic (they exchange images and emotions through a mental medium called "the ambient"), certain of the human colonists are selected by the native "nighthorses" to form a special bond. These bonded pairs, who share all their thoughts, ride escort for the wagon trains moving between the scattered human settlements. When horses and riders assemble in close proximity, emotions immediately reverberate through the ambient, and no secrets can be kept. Then, on the verge of winter, word comes to the town Shamesey that a "rogue" nighthorse--a mad creature that kills with its telepathic abilities--is terrorizing remote mountain villages. A rider, Aby Dale, lies dead. So her lover, Guil Stuart, with his horse, Burn sets out to slay the rogue. What Guil learns only later is that Aby was escorting a gold shipment--and the owners want it back. Following Guil on a whim comes young Danny Fisher, riding Cloud. Guil once befriended Danny, who now hopes to repay the favor. Behind Danny ride three tough mountaineers, also with instructions to recover the gold. And following them are others intending to repay Gull for an old grudge. As the various groups of riders converge, and winter deepens, the rogue drives the entire village of Tarmin crazy. Slapdash and bloated, like Fortress in the Eye of Time. This entry takes Cherryh well past 1400 pages of fiction published this year, stretching a once-reliable talent impossibly thin.