cover image Fortress of Dragons

Fortress of Dragons

C. J. Cherryh. Eos, $25 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105055-8

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)