Third in Park's Starbridge Chronicles, a fantasy series with literary ambitions, following Sugar Rain (1989). Mr. Sarnath, a nonhuman Treganu exile working as a customs official, observes a mystical sign and resolves to return to his home village, where the Master, a sage whose vapid, trite teachings inspire the Treganu to peace and cooperation, lies dying. Along the way--the journey takes years--Sarnath adopts human twins Cassia and Rael, orphans perhaps demon-got, perhaps reincarnations. The Master duly expires; time passes. Eventually Sarnath, disgusted with the way his compatriots have perverted the Master's teachings, and despairing at the way the distant central government is destroying the Treganu forest, commits suicide. Cassia and Rael are drawn into, or maybe are destined to personify, a resurgence of the hitherto severely suppressed Cult of Loving Kindness--a cult that, ironically, once enabled the overthrown and anathematized Starbridge caste to rule unopposed. Despite the layers of unfathomable weirdness, there's little in the story or the backdrop or the uninvolving characters that holds much appeal. Clever, certainly, sometimes admirable, but what it all adds up to is anybody's guess.