A prequel to Modesitt's fantasy series about planet Recluce with its war between Order (black magic) and Chaos (white magic) (The Death of Chaos, 1995, etc.). Here, a spaceship full of human ``angels'' (they're involved in a dreadful war in space against ``demons'') falls into another universe and is forced to land on a high plateau, the remainder of the planet being far too hot for the angels. As they struggle to survive against hostile locals wielding baffling Chaos magic, engineer Nylan must learn to control his own growing Order magic powers. The two groups are easily distinguished. The newcomers' story is recounted in the past tense, while the locals rejoice in a present-tense narrative: just one of the eccentricities in an often intriguing if fairly predictable installment.