Atop a twisting, canyon-climbing road, a witch lurks in a fortress built strong to keep out dragons and ogres. In another part of the countryside, a young orphan is maturing into a beautiful woman in the enchanted village that is her home. Somewhere nearby, a young man is seeking adventure after running away from his family's small farm. Suddenly a strange and terrible prophecy sets off a chain of events that will bring these three together in the heroic, romantic, and thrilling tale of an age-old battle.
Tepper ( Sideshow ) cleverly adopts elements of both fantasy and science fiction in this portrait of a world on the verge of chaos. Looking to space for a better world, most of Artemesia's inhabitants have deserted their land for the stars, leaving behind crumbling gang-infested cities, fortified suburbs protected by dwindling technology and a half-wild, half-rural land where renascent mythical beasts and fairy tale ``archetypes'' now live. There Abasio, a farmboy who is being pursued by vengeful gang members, meets Orphan, who is herself being pursued by the minions of Witch. Witch is convinced that in accordance with a delphic prophecy, Orphan can provide the ``guidance system'' for her space shuttle and thus allow her to settle the moon. Abasio, Orphan and their few allies are called to fulfill their destiny and defend the battered Earth from Witch's mad scheme for world domination. If the fantasy and SF elements don't always merge seamlessly, the setting is well-realized and Witch's psychosis is lurid and frightening. Tepper's prose is colorful and, while occasionally strident, tempered with wry wit and astute observations about human nature.