Gom, tenth child of the wizard Harga the Brown and the woodcutter Stig, is the one marked by his mother to follow in her magical footsteps. After Stig's death, Gore leaves home to search for his mother, protected by his ability to speak with animals, the Rune of Harga, and a staff carved by Stig. The sparrow on top of the staff poses him a riddle he must solve. Clues to Harga's whereabouts are few; evils, however, abound--in flying skulls, crafty conjurors, and dragon-guarded caves. Through his own skill, the kindness of unexpected friends, and his mother's power, Gore overcomes the evil Katak (temporarily, at least), gains an impressive steed, and is reunited with his mother, who will presumably help him solve the riddle in the next volume. The jacket tells us that Chetwin has been thinking about Gore for a long time, and indeed he is a fully realized character. Books about wizards and runes, evil and good, and riddles are now so rife that Gore and what becomes of him must, however, continue to interest the reader for the projected trilogy to have distinction. A good beginning in a crowded genre.