But not touched, sad to say, by much originality or narrative momentum: new fantasy from the author of Out of This World (1994), etc. As a newborn, Malledd the blacksmith's son bears the claw- shaped birthmark of the god Ba'el, indicating to the priests that he is the Domdur Empire's chosen champion. But as time passes, the mark fades, and Domdur remains at peace, so young Malledd shrugs off the title and takes up smithing. Meanwhile, Tebas Tudan develops a New Magic that, unlike the priests' traditional magic, uses cunningly crafted crystals to transform the power of the sun; one of his pupils is Rebiri Nazakri, the hereditary warlord of the defeated Olnami nation, who thirsts for revenge for his people's years of repression. Encouraged by a god, Rebiri taps into the dark powers of the nightwalkers, which can reanimate corpses--thus allowing Rebiri to create an all but invincible army. As Rebiri gathers his zombie warriors, he also stirs up treachery among the Domdur leadership. Malledd, learning of the situation, is only gradually persuaded that he is needed, and even then refuses to take command of the Empire's wavering armies; instead, he lops off the heads of the zombies--the only way to kill them permanently- -while seeking a showdown with Rebiri Nazakri. Ho-hum.