Deep in an abandoned, shattered castle, an old man of the Old Magic muttered almost forgotten words. His purpose-to create out of the insubstance of the air, from a shimmering of light and a fluttering of shadows. that most wonderous of spells, a Shaping. A Shaping in the form of a young man who will be sent east on the road the old was to old to travel. To right the wrongs of a long-forgotten wizard war, and call new wars into being. Here is the long-awaited major new novel from one of the brightest stars in the fantasy and science fiction firmament. C. J. Cherryh's haunting story of the wizard Mauryl, kingmaker for a thousand years of Men, and Tristen, fated to sow distrust between a prince and his father being. A tale as deep as legend and a intimate as love, it tells of a battle beyond Time, in which all Destiny turns on the wheel of an old man's ambition, a young man's innocence, and the unkept promised of a king to come.
Despite a few brief, shining moments, Cherryh's (Foreigner) new fantasy novel (her latest SF novel is reviewed below) proves an overwrought concoction. After a moderately interesting foray involving Mauryl, the aging wizard who conjures a ``Shaping'' named Tristen, the meandering of the nearly empty-headed Shaping takes center stage for far too long. Tristen sets off upon a quest knowing neither who he is nor what he seeks. Fortuitous happenings eventually bring him to Cefwyn, a prince in line to rule the land, and to Cefwyn's wizard, Emuin, himself a former student of Mauryl's. (The villains here are of two types: nebulously motivated men and erotically minded women.) A series of escapades involving prosaically presented political machinations leads to an inevitable final battle and to the likelihood of a sequel. Several plot threads, such as Tristen's similarity to a golem and an invocation of the ``Thirty-Eight,'' indicate that Cherryh is leaning on texts of Jewish mysticism here, but it's unlikely that even the most diligent of kabbalists would have the patience to wade through this substandard work. (May) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 01, 1996
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Excerpt from Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh
Its name had been Galasien once, a city of broad streets and thriving markets, of docks crowded with bright-sailed river craft. The shrines of its gods and heroes, their altars asmoke with incense offerings, had watched over commerce and statecraft, lords and ladies, workmen and peasant farmers alike, in long and pleasant prosperity.
Its name under the Sihh lords had been Ynefel. For nine centuries four towers reigned here under that name as the forest crept closer. The one-time citadel of the Galasieni in those years stood no longer as the heart of a city, but as a ruin-girt keep, stronghold of the foreign Sihh kings, under whom the river Lenalim's shores had known a rule of unprecedented and far-reaching power, a darker reign from its beginning, and darker still in its calamity.
Now forest thrust up the stones of old streets. Whin and blackberry choked the standing walls of the old Galasieni ruins, blackberry that fed the birds that haunted the high towers. Old forest, dark forest, of oaks long grown and sapped by mistletoe and vines, ringed the last standing towers of Ynefel on every side but riverward.
Through that forest now came only the memory of a road, which crossed a broken-down, often-patched ghost of a bridge. The Lenalim, which ran murkily about the mossy, eroded stonework of the one-time wharves, carried only flotsam from its occasional floods. Kingdoms of a third and younger age thrived on the northern and southern reaches of the Lenalim, but rarely did the men of those young lands find cause to venture into this haunted place. South of those lands lay the sea, while northward at the source of the Lenalim, lay the oldest lands of all, lands of legendary origin for the vanished Galasieni as well as for the Sihh: the Shadow Hills, the brooding peaks of the Hafsandyr, the lands of the legendary Arachim and the wide wastes where ice never gave up its hold.