The Fortress Series by C.J. Cherryh

Although I love many books, there are few books I can read and reread and never, ever grow tired of them. This is one. It is unique, as exceptionally detailed and “alive” as any other Cherryh book, but it has a special place in my heart although I own each and everyone of her works I can find.

For those who love historical fantasy of a type, epic fantasy, this is spectacular but not in an explosive way, but in the way where you love each and every character presented, good or evil, because they are so well-thought out and realized. You can see them vividly in your imagination.

For me also, this is a beautiful example of what I tried to imbue my own writing with: examples of relationships between a man and another man where they truly love each other for who they are, without having to be sexual or erotic. Or,  conversely, having a romantic and physical relationship as well but not having it explicitly written down to the most minute drop of lubrication. A topic I referenced in my article, “Is there a clear line between M/M fiction and gay fiction?” Please reference Cherryh’s superb description of Tristan and Crissand’s love for each other:

“‘There was love, a reliable and real love grown in a handful of days, and Tristan did not know why it was: friendship had happened to both of them, on the sudden, completely aside from Tristan’s both endangering and saving Crissand’s life. It was no reason related to that, it was no reason that either of them quite knew. Crissand had simply risen on his horizon like the sun of his banner…and that was that….They were together, and there was a great deal right with the day simply in that.’

Classic, courtly, beautiful love with no need ever in this particular story to speak anything of sexuality. Nothing suggestive in the slightest, but you feel their love warm as summer sun. It’s simply magnificent. This is the difference for me between m/m and gay fiction:  Non-necessities & Possibilities.”

Classic, courtly, beautiful love with no need ever in this particular story to speak anything of sexuality, of being gay or not gay, for it doesn’t matter. There is nothing suggestive in the slightest, but you feel their love warm as summer sun. That is all that matters and it’s simply magnificent. Tristan, the character you will meet if you begin in this book and continue in the series, is one who is ultimately terrifying for his powerful origin and nature,  yet you love him as an example of what is the best in a pure soul which is honest and true. He inspires and surprises love and devotion in special ones simply by existing.

Although it is an aspect of Cherryh’s writing I particularly enjoy, some readers do find her style very dense and too descriptive. An opinion which has also been leveled at my own work at times: overly wordy. This can play both for and against the books, but the style is distinct. There is no brevity and “mini” sentences so many modern writers have resorted to, to make their work move swiftly on electronic screens. The books are rich, heady and classic in tone.

Heroic. Epic. Beautiful. The Fortress series is outstanding in every way for those of us who love fantasy on a grand, world building scale.

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