An uneasy hybrid of sf and historical romance: author Hood, making her debut, keeps a foot in each camp but her head in neither, and the result is confusion, implausibility, and general lassitude. The star-wandering Pelezitereans, looking for a new home, arrive at Earth and send down a survey party consisting of ""Lawchild"" Agni and two low-caste ""hatcherbrats""; unaware that Earth is inhabited, they arrive in the middle of 13th-century Naples in time to disrupt the scheduled execution of pretender-to-the-throne Conradin--a nasty surprise for the non-imperialist Pelezitereans. Agni is killed, Conradin escapes, the hatcherbrats fire on the crowd and then take willful refuge in a nearby building. So the Pelezitereans dispatch young Natheless and her fiancÃ‰ Alrik, posing as sorcerers, to contact the Conradin faction and ask for help: amid courtly intrigues and Papal plotting (where Hood is most convincing), Peleziterean Jimmik Centauri decides Earth's an ideal place to set himself up as a god, and defects; Alrik falls in love with a native woman; and the Pelezitereans become increasingly involved with the culture they're supposed to be holding aloof from. An ambitious construct--but the supposedly alien Pelezitereans lack credibility, the Italian backdrop is devoid of atmosphere, and subplots proliferate without restraint. So, though the themes here are promising (and the mix is intriguing), only tolerant, patient readers will overcome the many narrative obstacles.