After a considerable absence, Silverberg again takes up his Majipoor chronicles (Lord Valentine's Castle, 1980, etc.). In the far future, the huge and beautiful planet Majipoor is home to a diverse array of humans and aliens in various stages of civilization. Now, 500 years after the time of Valentine Pontifex, the massive, blustering, yet good-hearted Toikella, king of the isolated, mountain-dwelling Othinor, takes hostage a trespassing group of paleontologists--so someone noble must be dispatched to negotiate for their release. The task devolves upon young Prince Harpirias, an exile from the ruling Castle Mount, who by making a success of the mission hopes to put his career back on track; his guide and translator will be Korinaam the Shapeshifter. The Othinor turn out to be as barbaric as Harpirias had feared: arrogant, filthy, clad in stinking furs, and dwelling in a frigid city hewn from the ice. And when King Toikella makes it clear that he expects Harpirias to sleep with his daughter (outsider genes being prized among the isolated Othinor), Harpirias balks, to Toikella's great displeasure. Meanwhile, causing the king embarrassment, the Othinor are taunted and threatened by another barbarian tribe who appear to be Shapeshifters. At last, Harpirias thaws: He sleeps with the king's daughter, participates in a royal hunt where he is obliged to gulp down raw meat, and prevails upon Korinaam to terrify and drive off his distant relatives, so helping Toikella avert a protracted and pointless tussle. Thin, but polished and agreeable and familiar.