It started long ago, in a tower at the Eye of Time, as a war between the shadowy Immortals who came before our kind. That war persists today, as the wizard Mauryl's Shaping confronts the Shadows that Hasufin summoned from Chaos against the Siddhe lords.Tristen is that Shaping, a halfling creature of Fire and Shadow. Both more and less than human, he turned back sorcery's tides in the legend-heavy battle of Lewenbrook. Tristen's victory brought his friend Cefwyn the burden of a Kingdom, Ylesuin, and the light of a love that would outlast the ages--Ninevrise, with her gift of prophecy.But the Lines that hold the world in place are shifting once again. The lightning-sheeted sky is aflame with sorcery's terror and magic's promise. Tasmorden has raised an army of rebels, and planted betrayers in Cefwyn's Dragon Guard. Once again, Cefwyn's peril is Tristen's call to arms.Astride black-maned Dys, with the eyes of Owl and the counsel of Auld Syes, with the friendship of Crissand and the loyalty of Uwen, Tristen takes up his sword inscribed with "Truth" and "Illusion" back-to-back on its blade.
The fourth volume in Cherryh's Fortress cycle finds Tristen created by the wizard Mauryl to combat the power-crazed, undying spirit of the dark sorcerer Hasufin Heltain sent back to Amefel as its duke, replacing the dishonored Orien Aswydd. Orien was cast into exile with her sister, Tarien, for betraying her oaths as duchess, and for colluding with Hasufin. But now Orien and Tarien, who is eight months pregnant with King Cefwyn's bastard child, are making their way through a supernatural storm to return to Amefel. Back in the capital, Cefwyn and his foreign bride, Ninevrise, are plotting a war, which is getting complicated by their many enemies and the kingdom's dual religious practices, as well as by the general populace's distrust of Ninevrise (because they believe she subscribes to the wrong religion and suspect that she may partake in heinous magical practices). Ninevrise, meanwhile, suspects she may be pregnant with Cefwyn's legitimate heir-but the child will be born after Tarien's illegitimate baby, who is already the subject of controversy, for the vile Hasufin plans to use the first-born as his conduit. As bitter winter winds blow throughout the kingdom, Tristen must battle for the souls of two royal children, while Cefwyn wages war to protect his inheritance and that of his wife against betrayal. The Fortress series (Fortress of Owls, etc.) generally devotes more attention to politics than plot twists, and this is true here. While Cherryh's understanding of character is subtle, the novel moves slowly and doesn't display this three-time Hugo winner at her best. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 28, 2001
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Excerpt from Fortress of Dragons by C. J. Cherryh
A slow procession passed by night, little disturbing the sleep of Henas'amef. Tristen on bay Petelly, two ladies on horses the lords of Ivanor had lent them, with Captain Uwen Lewen's-son and Tristen's bodyguard attending, all climbed the hill in a lazy fall of fat lumps of snow.
That families were asleep and shutters were drawn and latched up and down the streets lent welcome anonymity to their passage for by day the sight of the duke of Amefel riding in company with the red-haired former duchess and her sister would have alarmed the town.
As it was, their small party reached the Zeide's West Gate and dismounted with little fuss. The stableboys turned out dutifully, bleary-eyed with sleep until they discovered their lord had brought two visitors they never wished to see again. Then young eyes grew wide, and the boys moved fearfully and quickly about their business.
The gate-guards, who had come inward bearing torches to light the stable yard, also recognized the visitors by that light and seemed utterly confounded to know who the women were. So with the west stairs guards, who came down in their turn and stopped in their tracks.
"Here's your own lord!" Uwen Lewen's-son said to the gawkers. "An' he's gi'en refuge to these ladies, on account of some damn godless bandits has burned down the nunnery at Anwyfar. They walked here in the storm, half-dead and near frozen, which ain't their choice, nor His Grace's. Don't gawp, there, man! Help their ladyships inside! An' you, Edas! Run up to Master Tassand an' tell him come down an' get 'is orders! Haste about it!"
Tristen himself was only too glad to have turned over Petelly's reins to a stableboy. Now he climbed the west stairs, taking charge of his guests.
"Where shall we lodge?" Orien Aswydd asked him haughtily, turning and standing fast at the landing a step above him, and only a breath later did Tristen realize she was none so subtly inquiring after her former rooms. Those rooms happened to be the ducal apartment his apartment.
And little as he liked his lodgings, green velvet draperies and all the heraldry of the Aswydds into the bargain, he had no intention whatsoever of allowing these women that symbolic honor of place. The ducal apartments were not merely rooms: they were an appurtenance of high office, a place from which the duke's orders flowed to all Amefel, and no, and twice no, Orien Aswydd should not have them.