After a nine-year hiatus (The Door into Shadow, 1984, etc.), Duane's series again gets under way--this time as the evil Shadow and its minions threaten the Celtic/Norse-flavored kingdoms of Darthen and Arlen. After an interminable opening--all recaps, updates, chat, etc.--the plot finally asserts itself. The throne of Arlen is presently occupied by the usurper Cillmod, who has allied himself with the Shadow-inspired magician, Rian. Eftgan, Queen of Darthen, needs time to gather her forces for an assault in Arlen's capital, Prydon. Herwiss, master of Fire, the only extant male magician, contends with Rian but cannot defeat him despite the help of Sunspark, a fire-elemental. Warrior-sorceress Segnbora, having been given the memories of dragons, tries to persuade those same reluctant dragons to join the struggle against the Shadow. And Arlen's true king, Freelorn, survives Initiation in Lionhall, and acquires the magic of his godlike father, the White Lion. The culminating battle will disappoint nobody. Imaginative, well-handled magical affrays, plus plotting that- -eventually--provides enough twists and turns to keep things interesting: dramatic improvements after that glutinous start.