In Duncan's new fantasy (The Living God, 1994, etc.), few who contract ``star sickness'' survive; those who do are Cursed, afflicted with wild, uncontrollable magic talents that may be destructive or beneficial, or both. By ancient decree, the Cursed face banishment. Attractive widowed innkeeper Gwin Solitb, pestered by numerous unpleasant suitors, illegally shelters a young Ivielscath--she can cure all manner of diseases with a touch, or equally easily inflict them. Thereafter, Gwin is beset by inexplicable events. Her first visitor is a total stranger, a Shoolscath (he can ``premember'' the future, but forgets the past) who seems to know her. Then Bulion Tharn, a tough old farmer with a dangerously infected tooth, arrives, hoping for a miraculous cure. Another suitor attempts to abduct Gwin, and unaccountably falls dead. Gwin herself begins to hear voices. Meanwhile, an Ogoalscath--she can influence chance events--shows up seeking the Renewer, one fated to restore the old empire, and warns of a terrible threat from invading barbarians. Gwin persuades her timid Ivielscath to heal Bulion Tharn; and soon, through expediency and genuine affection, Gwin agrees to marry him. They head for the Tharn lands accompanied by the various Cursed, whose talents interact in fascinating and sometimes amusing ways. The prophesied Renewer's name, so it emerges, is--Bulion Tharn. Gwin herself turns out to be a rare Poulscath, one who can augment the powers of other Cursed and compel them to do her bidding; the voice she hears is the voice of her destiny. A truly ingenious scenario, with excellent characters and a reliable plot: continually surprising, charming, and engrossing despite the rather flat ending--Duncan in top form.