McKiernan's latest is set in the same fantasy-world as his previous Iron Tower and Silver Call series, with some of the characters in common. As the comet of the title hangs over the Boskydells of Mithgar, the immortal Elves Riatha and Aravan set off in search of a magic silver sword lost a thousand years ago to a mysterious, evil, yellow-eyed Man; they are joined by two Warrows, Gwylly and Faeril, looking to fulfil a thousand-year-old prophecy. Together, they dig from a glacier the shapeshifting Man/Bear, Baeran, imprisoned in the ice for a millennium along with their mutual enemy--the unspeakable shapeshifter, torturer, necromancer and all-round bad hat Baron Stoke, who escapes from the glacier just before our heroes arrive. From polar ice to broiling desert, the heroes search for clues to Stoke's whereabouts, beset all the while by the Baron's foul and treacherous minions--though not, surprisingly enough, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. The expected showdown ensues. As a Tolkien-imitator and borrower of other people's best bits, McKiernan stands second to none. If he himself has ever had an original idea, it isn't apparent here. Neither has he contrived to master his craft, and the upshot is misshapen plotting in a narrative comprising irregular chunks of, variously, homespun preaching, saccharine sentiment, splatterpunk gore, and wearisomely lavish padding. Given these ingredients, bestsellerdom is in the cards.