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David Zindell's massive epic fantasy The Lightstone is only the first volume of The Ea Cycle and is characterised by the same grandeur and vividly imagined scenes of glory and dismay as his space operas--the sequence which starts with Neverness. Like them, it is remarkable for scale, ambition and a capacity to evoke sinister beauty; in their case a thousand exploding suns; here a desperate battle in the underground throne room of a Dark Lord and the burning of a great library. There is a sense in which this is fantasy-by-numbers--young prince Val is sent on a quest for the long-lost Lightstone--the cure for the world's pain. He is harassed in his dreams by a demon who was once a bright being and is joined by companions who collect magical bric-a-brac as they go. Zindell though, is trying to work with the inherent strengths of mythic structure, bringing to the tale a sense of urgency and spiritual depth, rather than cynically exploiting the clichés. Val is a man who lives consciously with the myths he is re-enacting--heroism is not just heroic acts but an emotional space that goes with the acquisition of doomed love and mortal enemies. This is an impressive start to an interesting cycle. --Roz Kaveney