Fantasy venture from the author of Mainline (1996). The mage Inya is Guardian of Moontooth Tower, a magical focus where doors to other realities may be opened. On a more mundane level, Inya must manipulate the members of the Autarchs' Council to preserve the balance of power along the Salt Coast. Then the young and arrogant Murl Amrey arrives, demanding an apprenticeship. Reluctantly, for Murl is powerful but temperamental, Inya agrees, and soon he shares her bed as well as her magic. To curb Murl's impatience, Inya dispatches him to Styrcia to collect a magic crystal. He returns with a flawed specimen; the pair argue, Murl goes back to Styrcia, and Inya slams the portal shut behind him. Later--months for Inya, many years for Murl--now calling himself Kar Kalim, Murl bursts the sealed portal asunder and invades the Salt Coast with armies of beastlike karzdagi and hordes of Mongol-like Breo'la cavalry. With his new, perfect Styrcian crystal, he captures Inya and forces her to do his bidding. Helpless, appalled by Murl's brutality and ruthlessness, Inya must bide her time and await an opportunity to defeat him. Set forth with precision and clarity, and pleasingly detailed, but predictable and one-dimensional: worth a try for fans of Christian's fine debut.