In the mood for detailed, lovingly described, slightly creepy, and very political high fantasy? Have I got a book for you!
(In the mood for a quick, li...moreIn the mood for detailed, lovingly described, slightly creepy, and very political high fantasy? Have I got a book for you!
(In the mood for a quick, light read? Come back later.)
Fortress in the Eye of Time is the first book in C. J. Cherryh's Fortress series, and it takes some time establishing the setting. The book opens with an old wizard, living alone in an old fortress, working a great, old magic designed to create a perfect being to fulfill an old promise. Being very, very old, he falters at the last, and instead creates Tristen: a lovely, innocent young man with the charm, good sense, and wit of an exceptionally adorable puppy. A sizable portion of the book is devoted to Tristen exploring the crumbling fortress with screaming faces set in the stonework, making friends with mice and owls (and not quite reconciling how the two can't seem to get along), and otherwise ambling along with the curiosity of an overgrown toddler.
Eventually what happens to very old men living alone happens to Tristen's creator, and Tristen makes his naive way out into the world. Following the dubious guidance of an owl, he makes his way to a town where the kingdom's heir has been sent, while his more-highly-favored younger brother remains home in the capital. Prince Cefwyn, on the counsel of his advisor, takes the unearthly manchild under his wing. Meanwhile, war is brewing with a neighboring kingdom, with multiple assassins having been sent for the prince, along with a marriage proposal that would ally their countries. That kingdom, curiously, has a regency in place, waiting for the day that a very old wizard fulfills his promise to return to them their king...
As I mentioned earlier, this is not a light, quick read. The prose, while lovely, is very detailed and requires savoring to fully appreciate. The characters are rich, with depth and strength and deeply human tendencies towards failings and magnificence in equal measure. As Tristen grows and learns, so do the people associated with him. This first novel only hints at the ways they'll all change, but it introduces people like Cefwyn, the Regent's amazing daughter Nínèvrisë, and Uwen, an old soldier assigned to Tristen to care for him. Political machinations, philosophy, and intense worldbuilding all abound in the series.
These are good books for fans of Game of Thrones who don't want to be depressed, those who enjoy the detailed descriptions of Tolkien, those who dislike the extraneous descriptions of Tolkien, and pretty much anybody who likes high fantasy done well.(less)