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Fortress of Ice    by C. J. Cherryh Amazon.com order for
Fortress of Ice
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fortress of Ice continues the saga - of a world threatened by dire magic and an undying sorceror - told in Fortress in the Eye of Time, Fortress of Eagles, Fortress of Owls, and Fortress of Dragons (events of those earlier episodes are summarized at the beginning, as an introduction to this one). As always, Cherryh's protagonists are outsiders, strangers in strange lands.

The main focus of previous episodes was Tristen, a Candide-like innocent brought to life (bereft of memory) in a magical shaping by Galasieni wizard, Mauryl Gestaurien, to counter the great evil worked by sorceror Hasufin Heltain from beyond the grave. Tristen gradually grew to understand his origins and purpose, while developing strong ties of friendship - in particular to King Cefwyn Marhanen as he struggled to unite Ylesuin - and growing in powerful SihhŰ magic.

As this episode opens, Cefwyn is married to NinÚvrisŰ, Lady Regent of Elwynor, with two legitimate children - Aewyn and new baby girl Aemaryen - and Tristen has retreated with his friend and servant Uwen to Mauryl's haunted fortress at Ynefel. Distrusted by the priests of the Quinaltine, he watches over events from a distance. Otter, Cefwyn's son by traitress Tarien Aswydd, has been raised in Amefel in humble surroundings by a hedge-witch he calls Gran. He has developed a strong friendship with Aewyn, who bonded with his half-brother during the king's annual visits.

Now, at Aewyn's urging, Cefwyn has invited Otter to Guelamara, and intends to include him in holiday festivities as a member of the family, thus easing him into court life. With Otter is his foster brother and servant Paisi. Though Otter tries hard to fit in and please his father, things go awry. He also dreams that Gran is ill and has visions of her cottage aflame. Otter secretly sends Paisi home to make sure all is well. Are his visions true or is his mother using her magic to manipulate events from her tower prison?

Events go from bad to worse, Otter's presence in the cathedral arouses a dark shadow, the dreams escalate, and the boy flees into a winter storm, visiting Tristen at Ynefel. Tristen offers sparse but valuable advice, and tells him to take up his real name, Elfwyn Aswydd. Then Otter/Elfwyn is entangled in the machinations of his mother and those behind her. He finds a book whose magic could undo Tristen and rides into another storm and a whirlwind of magic, to keep it from his enemies' hands. Aewyn rushes after him, leaving the king frantic over the fates of both sons.

Enter Tristen and another old, long departed friend, to do what they can. But ultimately the boys - each with his own special talents - save themselves. As always, Cherryh lingers on characters' feelings and anxieties, which will not be to all readers' tastes. But it works for me - I enjoyed this series when it was primarily Tristen's and Cefwyn's story, and welcome its continuation into the next generation.

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