From the author of Cyteen, Downbelow Station, and various other works of science fiction: a fantasy of Old Russia, where powerful spirits lurk in every natural feature of the landscape and Christianity, never mind Marxism, isn't even a distant prospect. Gay blade Pyetr Korchevikov, wounded and dying after a failed romantic assignation, flees the town of Vojvoda accompanied by young Sasha Misurov (he's terrified of his own growing wizardly powers). In the forest they stumble upon old Uulamets, a powerful if irascible wizard; Uulamets has labored for years trying to bring his murdered daughter Eveshka back to life. But Eveshka has become a Rusalka, a spirit that feeds on living things in order to survive; already she has killed half the trees. Even so, Uulamets, assisted by Pyetr and Sasha, succeeds in reanimating Eveshka (she and Pyetr soon fall in love), but some puissant being still holds her life-force in thrall. Is it the vodyanoi or River-thing? (Eveshka was drowned.) Or--aha--is it Kavi Chemevog, an evil wizard, once apprentice to Uulamets and now seeking revenge? Will Uulamets jealously destroy Pyetr before he can help Eveshka? And will Sasha learn to control his powers in time to save them all? Mechanics-wise, a pretty good plot, if only so-so characters and setting What's missing is atmosphere, tension, chills and thrills--anything, in sum, that might galvanize this earnest, plodding, uncompelling, and decidedly overlong yarn.