The third--and best--volume in the Saga of Pliocene Exile, which follows a group of malcontents exiled, via timewarp, to the Pliocene epoch; after the longwinded The Many-Colored Land and the ludicrously overblown The Golden Tore, this one's altogether more brisk and shapely, with real storytelling ambitions. Since mad paranormal Felice's flood swept away the dominant alien Tanu's leaders, Machiavellian trickster Aiken Drum is the prime candidate for the kingship of the Many-Colored Land. His chief challengers: sadomasochistic Felice herself (healer Elizabeth's attempted cure is a shattering failure); former Tanu battlemaster Nodonn (whom Drum's wife Mercy loves, and spies for); and devious super-paranormal Marc Remillard (back in the future, he tried and failed to conquer the galaxy). Other complications include plots and subversions by the rebellious, alien Firvulag (ancient rivals of the Tanu), the hideous Firvulag-mutant Howlers, and the latter's sometime allies, the human Lowlives. And though there are still far too many frivolous subplots, walk-on extras, and backdrop beasties, Drum is an appealingly picaresque hero and the often-stirring esp confrontations are imaginatively handled. An improved fantasy-stew, then (time-travel + esp + aliens + mutants), which might win some new friends. . . and certainly won't lose existing ones.