Eflwyn’s character, teetering so desperately between two very different paths, will draw in readers through a dramatic and sometimes magical coming of age story. Much of the early parts of the book rely on political intrigue and constant references to history of the land; fortunately Cherryh wisely includes a short introduction that provides a quick summary of the back-story for readers new to the series. The remaining action focuses on Elfwyn and his search for his own path. The action overall is well plotted and fast moving, and Cherryh's controlled prose works effectively alongside her ideas. Where I feel like the book falls apart, though, is at the ending. When finally confronted with the true evil behind all the dark plotting, the conversation might as well be this:
Evil Person says, "You will bow before me and further my plans to bend the kingdom to my mighty will. Hahahaha!"
Elfwyn responds with, "Screw you, jack!"
Cherryh's approach is not quite that simplified, nor as bluntly snotty, but you get the idea. At no point is Elfwyn really tempted or confused by the evil. Sure, there are points at which he's manipulated but it's made pretty clear that he's not under control of himself at those moments. It never enters Elfwyn's mind that the evil way is better, that he or even the kingdom could be better off if he--ahem--went to the dark side. It all makes the real struggle of the novel---the internal struggle for Elfwyn to find out who he really is---pretty mundane. To her credit, I think Cherry's main intent was to create a compelling commercial novel, and Fortress of Ice will definitely satisfy anyone looking for a fast read. But anyone looking for fantasy to do a bit more needs to look elsewhere.