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Tim Lebbon, . . Bantam Spectra, $12 (413pp) ISBN 978-0-553-38467-3

Stoker-winner Lebbon successfully combines quest adventure and horror in this gripping and disturbing tale. Some 4,000 years before the events of Dusk (2006), the people of Noreela are just beginning an era of expansion, with explorers going constantly further into unknown territory for profit and glory. Blocking the voyagers' southward journeys, however, is the Great Divide, a cliff that reaches into the clouds. Ramus Rheel, an aging explorer battling cancer, and Nomi Hyden, whose wealth has not diminished her craving for adventure, are “friendly enemies” who set out to scale the Divide and earn recognition as the greatest voyagers of all. When they find the lair of one of the ancient Sleeping Gods, they get considerably more excitement—and terror—than they bargained for. Lebbon creates vivid and convincing major and minor characters, places and creatures, blending wonder and nightmare in this dark and memorable novel. (Apr.)