cover image Fortress of Owls

Fortress of Owls

C. J. Cherryh. HarperPrism, $24 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105054-1

Tristen, a young man summoned and ""shaped"" into the world by the wizard Mauryl in Fortress in the Eye of Time (1995) takes up, in the third book of this high fantasy series, as duke of the Southern stronghold Amefel under his lord and friend, King Cefwyn. Although fully grown, Tristen has lived in the world less than a year and is still more magical creature than flesh and blood man, so he has trouble handling the subtleties of politics. He keeps breaking rules: rebuilding old defensive walls, sheltering starving fugitives from his enemy's lands and summoning the Southern Lords to discuss battle in the middle of a harsh winter. King Cefwyn, meanwhile, is learning that the head beneath the crown always rests uneasily. Though he is comforted by his love for his new wife, other troubles distress him--his priests and courtiers are conspiring against him, his former lover's imminent marriage provokes much gossip and his foreign-born bride still seeks to retake her native lands amid hostility from his own people. None of these quandaries are resolved in this series entry. Cherryh delights in bringing to the fore the small details of courtly life: the political import of petticoat fashions, the disposition of oxcarts and payment of royal carpenters. Her rich characters are sure to please her many fans (she has won three Hugos) and a detailed, if somewhat drawn out, prologue will bring new readers of the saga up to speed. (Jan.)