Ronin, swordsman extraordinary (The Sunset Warrior, 1977), has fled the sub. terranean ""Freehold"" and the still deeper City of Ten Thousand Paths, bringing to the frozen surface of the planet a scroll in a forgotten tongue. Accompanied by the shaman Borros, he sets sail across an immense ice-plain, seeking a land where the secrets of the scroll can be used against a vile beast called the Makken, harbinger of a yet deadlier power now coming ""to claim the world."" In the vast opium-fogged port city of Sha'angh'sei on the east coast of ""the continent of man,"" Ronin not only finds the Makkon at large but learns that the city's perpetually warring factions are already half-united against a dreadful host of ""not-men"" to the north. The Chinese ambience--vintage Terry and the Pirate--is carried off with some pizzaz in the van Lustbader prose style, which is not on purple but (whenever possible) amethyst and violaceous. To say nothing of sanguinary: ""Ronin's blurred blade, pulsing platinum along its entire length, screamed downward and clove his head in two. The body leaped into the humid air like a speared fish. . . ."" Further cleavings and spearings are apparently scheduled in Japan.