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Fortress of Dragons    by C. J. Cherryh order for
Fortress of Dragons
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fortress of Dragons tells Tristen's tale that began with Fortress in the Eye of Time and continued with Fortresses of Eagles and Owls. Tristen consolidates his rule in Amefel and counters the influence of Hasufin whom he defeated in a previous episode, but whose Shadow still makes mischief. A major complication starts the story - the former duchess of Amefel and her twin sister, Orien and Tarien Aswydd, seek refuge with Tristen after their nunnery prison is attacked. Tarien is pregnant with Cefwyn's child, conceived on the same night that Tristen and Cefwyn first met.

Tristen has been building up the duchy's defenses to counter a growing threat from the usurper of bordering Elwynor. He has sheltered refugees at the urging of the magical Witch of Emwy, Auld Syes. He also has some guidance from the wizard Emuin and Owl, companion of his early days. Back in the capital of Guelemara, Cefwyn and his consort NinévrisNaN cope with treacherous lords and resistance from the Quinalt clergy, as they work to reclaim NinévrisNaN's inheritance.

This is a complex story of politics and warfare, magic and Shadows and Lines between our world and another, darker one. It is becoming clear that Tristen is a Summoning of an ancient Sihhe Lord, but he insists that that is not all he is; he has also been Shaped by his experiences in this lifetime and by his connections to its people. It is his essential innocence and humanity (despite his inhuman nature) that appeal.

As is usual with Cherryh's writings she builds up the tale at a slow pace and with much repetition, which is occasionally frustrating. However it is worth persevering as this writer is one of the best at depicting otherness, either aliens or magical others. Tristen defeats evil in the climactic ending of Fortress of Dragons, but there are seeds for what will follow in the dramatic birth of Tarien's child and in NinévrisNaN's pregnancy with the second of Cefwyn's sons. I look forward to it.

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