Fortress of Dragons ends the story arc that began in Fortress in the Eye of Time. In this book, Tristen makes many discoveries about himself, Cefwyn continues to battle treachery among his nobles and Ninévrisë has to deal with her husband’s wild oats. Mixed into the action and political intrigue is Cherryh’s usual arcs of character growth, interactions, and relationships.
At the end of Fortress of Owls, it is revealed that the convent where Orien and Tarien Aswydd had been held prisoner had been destroyed by men wearing uniforms identifying them as soldiers from Guelessar. Having nowhere else to go, they ran for Amefel, and both women end up in Tristen’s custody. Tristen also makes the discovery that Tarien is pregnant, and the father is Cefwyn. This is not a good thing to have come up,and things get worse when it turns out that Hasufin is planning on possessing Tarien’s baby (which temporarily turns Tarien into a temporary ally).
Meanwhile,Cefwyn is starting to move out and take on Tasmorden. Unfortunately, he has to deal with a treacherous baron and numerous other political and sorcerous difficulties without the help of Tristen who has problems of his own. (He spends a great deal of time wishing he had not tried reasoning with the northern lords, and regretting not having Tristen nearby.) When it becomes apparent that Ninévrisë is also expecting, he sends her to Amefel for additional protection.
Efanor also has a part to play in this story. It turns out that Efanor also possesses a wizardly talent, and Tristen enlists his aid to protect the Quinaltine church Ylesuin’s capital city. (The problem involved is that when the building had been built, it had caused a magical disturbance of some sort which attracted and trapped spirits, which made the place open to sorcerous attack.) Efanor doesn’t quite believe Tristen at first, but Tristen manages to convince him of the importance of the task. (Efanor pretty much makes up for his earlier, nastier impulses with this scene.)
The emotional arc as Tristen struggles with the knowledge of his past life, and with his desire to not displace his friend Cefwyn despite prophecies,supernatural omens and just about everyone else demanding that he fulfill his“destiny” is one of the main reasons I enjoy this series so much. This does not seem to happen very often in epic fantasy or when it does, it results in tragedy. That this ends with a victory and with Cefwyn and Tristen remaining friends makes me very happy.
This was a very fast paced book, with a lot going on, all at once. I was a little confused in places, and I think I missed some things that were probably important. Another thing I had difficulty with was that I was not quite sure who or what the ultimate bad guy was supposed to be.