Intriguing other-world fantasy from the author of Illusion (1991), set in the subarctic Russian-flavored land of Rhazaulle. The Ulor (or ruler) of Rhazaulle has a learned and intelligent but sickly younger brother, Varis, who, tiring of being insulted or passed over in favor of lesser men at court, retires to the remote family castle, the Tollbooth. Here, by dint of great study and various stimulating drugs, Varis develops a mastery of necromancy, able to conjure forth and command the miserable ghosts that infest Rhazaulle. Becoming accustomed to wielding power, and as a side- effect of the drugs, Varis decides to become Ulor himself, and, using his forbidden arts, coerces ghosts into disposing of both his elder brothers and the current Ulor's children. Next in line are Varis's nephew, Cerrov, and niece, Shalindra; their mother promptly dispatches the pair to the southerly kingdom of Aennorve, and Varis becomes Ulor. As the years pass, Shalindra, confined to a remote island library, develops into a scholar--and also dabbles in necromancy herself after learning that the Librarian is secretly a necromancer, one concerned with liberating captive ghosts rather than compelling them. But those who practice necromancy almost always succumb to the necromantic dementia known as ``spifflication.'' Thoughtful, distinctive, unconventional, and shapely.