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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 1999
It has been several months since I read this book, so it is no longer fresh in my memory, however I do know that enjoyed it. Although I am a fan of fantasy fiction, i am a frustrated fan, as most available fantasy books, particularly those published during the recent explosion of fantasy fiction, are extremely substandard, and it is necessary to wade through enormous amounts of rubbish just to find one good book. This book was a pleasant surprise, although taking place in a "standard" Medieval European setting, it manages to produce deep characterisation, a refreshing and fairly original story, something which admittedly is quite difficult in fantasy, and some real drama and tragedy. The main characters are both believable and likable, the ending although somewhat abrupt, is satisfying. Altogether a very satisfying read, and only to be expected from a writer with C.J. Cherryh's stature and experience.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2003
Cherryh is justifiably praised for her unique alien cultures, her complex political and social settings and plots, her sense of fast paced action and psychological insights. But it seems that she reserves all these good qualities for her science fiction novels, and is almost a different writer when it comes to fantasy.
Fortress spends it first 200 pages on just two characters, the wizard Mauryl and his Shaping Tristen. Mauryl is one of the world's oldest creatures, and reputably one of the strongest, part of both the first and second great ages of this world. But when the book opens we are in the third age, and Mauryl is old, his powers not quite what they were. His Shaping of Tristen is his last great act of wizardry, and it does not go totally according to plan, for when Tristen appears, he knows nothing of his abilities or purpose or even the essentials of what it is to be human, and must be painstakingly taught by Mauryl. And here we see one of the main failings of this book - Mauryl could obviously be a very deep and intriguing character, but we are given almost no details about his earlier life, about what type of person he is, about why he felt that summoning his Shaping was necessary. Instead we view almost everything through the eyes of Tristen, at this point very much an innocent, who can only see the obvious. And Mauryl's enemy is very nebulous, manifesting as a wind, a shaking, with no background of what he is, what his capabilities are, or even why he is Mauryl's enemy. All of this would be perfectly acceptable for a 15 page introduction to the main story, but here it is stretched out over a very slow moving, apparently pointless 200.
After this point, when Tristen is forced to go on the road to discover his purpose, and we start the see the whole imagined world, the novel gets much better. Here we find Cefwyn, heir to the throne, dealing with the constant political intrigues of feudal society, a scenario that allows Cherryh to stretch her legs and begin to show the writing she is capable of, mixing multiple very distinct characters and event lines with a complexity she handles very nicely. As the world is painted in, we also begin to find out its history and the faint beginnings of who Mauryl's enemy is, and a little insight into just what Tristen is. When Cherryh gets to describe the problems and logistics of putting a feudal army into the field, every detail rings true, and the reader gets a real sense of actually being part of this world. But we also find the second major problem with this book, and that is Tristen himself. As we proceed through the story, Tristen finds that he has abilities and talents that manifest at need - such as when required to ride a horse, he immediately shows the talents of a master horseman. This is a very dangerous deus-ex-machina plot device, as Cherryh can basically state at any point that Tristen now suddenly has such-and-such ability to be able to deal with whatever the current problem is. And it is this rabbit-out-of-the-hat feeling that mars the denouement of this book, making it far less exciting than it could have been.
A well constructed world that shows intimations of being very intriguing, some very good characters, especially Cefwyn, but little sense of high fantasy, poor pacing, and an ending that left this reader with a letdown feeling.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2011
I enjoyed the book.

I liked the start, an interesting, if slow, introduction to this new fantasy world. But I didn't realise that it really was just a prologue for the rest of the book, and in retrospect could have been shorter.

The criticism that Tristen's abilities are unknown to the reader, and so anything can be produced is valid, but I didn't really mind, and I don't think it was abused too much.

After a very long build-up, I did think that the ending happened very fast indeed. So read the last 2% at a slower pace!

I did like the practicalities of a fantasy feudal world, so often ignored by other writers.

I have the Kindle edition, so it's possible that the typography for some of the passages might be better in the paperback. I found keeping track of who was speaking in certain passages tricky.

I'm looking forward to reading the other in the series, but perhaps after a few shorter works first.
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on 17 February 2003
In the crumbling tower of Ynefel, Mauryl Gestaurien, the last of the great wizards creates a Shaping, a man named Tristen to undertake Mauryl's task. But, Mauryl's Shaping is flawed, not knowing who he is or what his powers are. When his enemy defeats Mauryl, Tristen goes out into the world to find out who and what he is. Arriving in Amefel, Tristen is brought to the attention of Cefwyn, a prince, and heir to the whole kingdom of Ylesuin. Cefwyn and his advisors quickly grasp that Tristen can be either a great blessing or a terrible danger.
This book is well written, and exciting to read. I found the ending rather abrupt, but that is a very minor complaint. This book is a fascinating variant on the old sword-and-sorcerer theme, and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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on 11 December 2008
Re-read this book again over the weekend (for around the 20th time) and enjoyed it just as much as the 1st time. The first 30 pages of this book are now individually sellotaped back in which gives you an idea of how well loved it has become.

I have read most of CJ Cherryh's books and this is one is one of the best. The characters grab you from the start. Chronicles of Morgaine also an excellent choice.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2003
In the crumbling tower of Ynefel, Mauryl Gestaurien, the last of the great wizards creates a Shaping, a man named Tristen to undertake Mauryl's task. But, Mauryl's Shaping is flawed, not knowing who he is or what his powers are. When his enemy defeats Mauryl, Tristen goes out into the world to find out who and what he is. Arriving in Amefel, Tristen is brought to the attention of Cefwyn, a prince, and heir to the whole kingdom of Ylesuin. Cefwyn and his advisors quickly grasp that Tristen can be either a great blessing or a terrible danger.
This book is well written, and exciting to read. I found the ending rather abrupt, but that is a very minor complaint. This book is a fascinating variant on the old sword-and-sorcerer theme, and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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on 21 December 2014
Arrived very promptly and in the condition advertised - another good purchase from bookdonors. Also an excellent book, would recommend for any CJ Cherryh fan,
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Good one but if you're kindling it don't get excited because the fortress of owls ain't on kindle. this is a very promising series tho.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 1999
For the first time since her Morgaine series C J Cherryh has managed to create something which goes beyond the good, though at times over stretched intermediary works such as Rusalka - Chernovog - Yvgenie, Ealdwood, Farey in Shadow, and The Goblin Mirror. In this book she has combined elements from them all, bringi9ng her fantasy work in line with the qualities that mark her Sci-Fi stories: the ongoing Foreigner series especially, which would warrant the rather OTT statement on the back cover of this being her 'high fantasy triumph'.
Parts of the narrative don't work as well as they could, some sequences requiring a little more stretch in them in order to add more credibility - the part where Tristan is so keenly welcomed into the Royal fold so soon after getting to town standing out the most, with a few others rushed in comparison to the length of the build up. There is also rather too much dashing about the countryside to add an element of overt action.
Even so, Ms Cherryh - like Carlsberg is to lager - is probably the best writer in this genre; her combination of literary technique, and attention to detail within context outstanding in its appeal to those who want to read something more involving than is usual.
And look out for the others in this set: Fortress of Eagles, Fortress of Owls, etc.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2001
I loved this book, surely C J Cherryh has one of the most vivid imaginations in modern fantasy.The characters are brilliantly realised and certainly pull on your heartstrings, either one way or the other.I could'nt wait for the next book in the series.buy it!
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