A sometimes tantalizing but mostly just frustrating fantasy/science fiction hard-cover debut from a veteran paperback author, featuring a planet where two world-girdling continents are separated by a 2500-mile-wide ""River."" Instead of a plot, Tepper presents a bewildering series of maybe-connected plotlets strung out over a period of years. Young boatman and woodcarver Thrasne fishes from the River a dead woman who, thanks to the ""blight,"" has turned into wood, and keeps her in his cabin. He talks to her. The dead woman's daughter, Pamra, later joins the powerful Awakeners, who turn Northshore's dead into zombies. The Awakener higher-ups trade the zombie flesh for an immortality elixir produced by the winged, alien, carrion-eating Servants of Abricor. A dispute arises between the Awakeners and the Servants. Eventually, Pamra discovers the Awakeners' ghoulish secret and flees in horror. Later, Pamra and Thrasne meet; Pamra's woody mother gives birth to a weird child. Meanwhile, other groups remote from the protagonists are being stirred up by yet other developments. The publishers are at least candid about it: this entry is not independently intelligible (a sequel, Southshore, is promised), so it is not possible to reach conclusions about the foregoing. The fact remains that readers are being asked to fork over $14.95 for what is only half a book.