Fortress of Eagles, the sequel to C.J. Cherryh's astounding Fortress in the Eye of Time, continues the story of a kingdom in turmoil and of one simple man whose very existence has the power to put things aright. This complex saga of destiny, courtly intrigue and magic remains, at its heart, the incredible story of a young man who is not wholly a man, and of the loyalties at the center of his being.
Young Cefwyn sits the throne of Ylesuin as king, and his dream for his reign is plain but grand: a united kingdom and stability in the neighboring land. But many things are at work to waylay his hopes: the northern lords and the Quinaltine clerics, firmly in power during Cefwyn's father's reign, doubt the strength of his allegiances to them. So it is that they seek to undermine their new ruler's intentions. They hope to keep Cefwyn from marrying the regent of neighboring Elwynor, and they try everything to bring down Cefwyn's closest, most loyal friend. That friend is Tristen, the young man whom Cefwyn has just recently made Lord Warden of Ynefel and Marshal of Althalen.
Tristen is both more and less than a normal man: he may, in fact, be the reincarnation of a long-dead magical Sihhë warlord. All Tristen knows for certain about himself is that he is a Summoning incarnated by Mauryl, the centuries old wizard who finally met his death in a spirit battle against a former student, Hasufin Heltain, who wishes nothing more than to be reborn and to rule with absolute power over all. Tristen is mostly a guileless soul whose knowledge of both present and past comes to him in fits and starts. He is also possessed of an unwordly ability to wield wizardry, and of a battle prowess that someone who is barely a year old has no natural right to. He holds absolute loyalty to Cefwyn, and the strength of his affection for those dearest to him is staggering.
Because of the sway he holds with the young king, Tristen finds himself a target for the uneasy northern lords and religious leaders. He must do everything within a power constrained by love and conscience to save Cefwyn, Cefwyn's betrothed Ninévrisë and the whole of two lands from wizardous usurpers. He will need to use both his uncomfortably innate battle knowledge and his remarkably underdeveloped sense of self-preservation to keep all he loves from being overtaken.
C.J. Cherryh is a master character-builder, and Tristen is plain evidence of her ability. His personal growth from an apparent simpleton to the titled head of a province is engrossing, and he's still got a way to go. The fierce fidelity he engenders in his intimates is born of his own constancy. He is easily one of the most complex and intriguing figures in modern fantasy; well-deserved kudos again to Ms. Cherryh.