C. J. Cherryh--three-time winner of the coveted Hugo Award--is one of today's best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers of science fiction and fantasy. The author of more than fifty novels, she makes her home in Spokane, Washington.
Despite a few brief, shining moments, Cherryh's (Foreigner) new fantasy novel (her latest SF novel is reviewed below) proves an overwrought concoction. After a moderately interesting foray involving Mauryl, the aging wizard who conjures a ``Shaping'' named Tristen, the meandering of the nearly empty-headed Shaping takes center stage for far too long. Tristen sets off upon a quest knowing neither who he is nor what he seeks. Fortuitous happenings eventually bring him to Cefwyn, a prince in line to rule the land, and to Cefwyn's wizard, Emuin, himself a former student of Mauryl's. (The villains here are of two types: nebulously motivated men and erotically minded women.) A series of escapades involving prosaically presented political machinations leads to an inevitable final battle‘and to the likelihood of a sequel. Several plot threads, such as Tristen's similarity to a golem and an invocation of the ``Thirty-Eight,'' indicate that Cherryh is leaning on texts of Jewish mysticism here, but it's unlikely that even the most diligent of kabbalists would have the patience to wade through this substandard work. (May)