Fortress of Ice is a difficult book to pin down–I find myself liking the book, but not liking it enough. (Which no, doesn’t make sense. There are books I love and reread endlessly, there are books I like but only read once. This book falls somewhere between those two categories.) The feeling and tone is entirely different because all the primary characters have become secondary and tertiary, and the next generation is new and very wet behind the ears.
This is primarily a book about family and the relationships between the various characters. It’s about the friendship between Aewyn and Elfwyn, and about Cefwyn trying to be a good father to both his sons. Of course, with a family that is a royal family there are also politics and intrigue, so this is also a book about Cefwyn trying to be a king, while also trying to be a father to his illegitimate and politically problematic son.
Tristen, who had been the forefront of the previous books, takes a back seat in Ice. In this book, he mostly watching from a distance–which in some ways detracts from the story. I had enjoyed the previous books mostly for Tristen’s unique perspective and his interactions with other characters. In this book however, he stays in the distance as a mysterious figure–he’s now the advisor-sage instead of the one who needs advice. This shift was a little jarring and abrupt for me. I would have liked him to have a more active role in the story.
Elfwyn is invited by his father and brother to the capital city of Ylesuin. Cefwyn plans on acknowledging Elfwyn and giving him a place in the family, which is causing a great deal of controversy among the nobles and the major religious group which has it in for Elfwyn because strange supernatural phenomena appear around him. (There are of course other reasons, most of them political.) Elfwyn struggles to deal with this, and his half-brother Aewyn tries to help–unfortunately for both of them, good intentions only manage to get both of them in even deeper trouble.)
One of the things I liked about this book is how Efanor had changed from the naïve young man he had been into a more mature–though still very religious person. I think I would have liked the book more if we had shifted the character point of view to him, instead of primarily to Elfwyn. I also liked how mature Cefwyn has become, and the scenes where Tristen is interacting with Elfwyn.