Hardback debut for the author of various fantasies (Masters of Glass, The Fisherman's Curse, etc.): a pleasingly eccentric blend of quasi-history and traditional hobgoblinese. Physician Yarkol Dolmi ministers to those of his people who labor to build a safe path across the poisonous volcanic terrain known as the Throat of Sorrows (rich, unoccupied lands are at the far end of the path). Abruptly he is soul-stricken--afflicted with a mysterious disease that turns him youthful and ageless, robs him of his manhood, gives him an irresistible urge to wander like his nomadic ancestors, and enables him to see into the spirit world of sprites, imps and kobolds. He travels north, and soon falls in with a young Chirudak nomad spy, Etou, and her friend, the shaman Dzaminid. In dreams, Yarkol learns that he must go to meet the Kag, or Chirudak, chieftain, who has ambitions of conquest--but the Kag turns out to be soul-stricken, too, as well as hostile to all Yarkol's proposals for peace. Meanwhile, Yarkol learns to leave his body and move in the spirit world, where several times he's outwitted by the cunning imps. Finally, acknowledging that the Kag cannot be stopped in battle, Yarkol must bargain with Gilgil, the king of the imps, to halt the Kag's hordes. Initially outwitted yet again, Yarkol defeats the Kag in a spirit-world showdown, then turns the tables on the tricky Gilgil. Curious work, intermittently intriguing, but also erratic and hard to get a grip on. Not entirely convincing, overall, but with enough complexity and originality to attract readers with a taste for the offbeat.