Review Blog

Mar 20 2019

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

cover image

Fantasy Masterworks series. Gollanz, 2014. ISBN: 9781473205741.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Sorcerers, Princes and princesses. World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2003), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (2003). This award winning novel is a feast for the fantasy lover, one for those who wants a challenge and something different. Ombria is a strange place with a palace riddled with secret passages and rooms. Buried beneath the city is a shadow city, inhabited by ghosts and Mag, a waxling created by Faey, a powerful sorceress. When the Prince of Ombria dies he leaves only a very young son, Kyel, and Domina Pearl, a ruthless old woman, takes over the kingdom as regent. She expels Lydea, the Prince's mistress, leaving her to die. But Mag saves her and together with Ducon, the prince's bastard nephew, they try to overcome Domina Pearl's evil intentions and save Kyel.
Written in beautiful prose, Ombria in shadow brings to life a strange world on many levels. The reader is taken on a wondrous trip through dusty passages with strange doors in the palace, and on a further journey through the city with Ducon as he draws shadowy doors and eerie buildings. There is mystery about the worlds that McKillip describes; there is even mystery about the ending and the reader has to pause and reread to find understanding of the connectedness of the worlds and of Mag and Ducon's role in them. And the magic described is original and fascinating.
The love that Ducon and Lydea have for young Kyel is central to the book and glows throughout. It is refreshing to have the love for a child as the main theme rather than romantic love. The idea of loyalty to those who are loved is also one to explore and ponder over, especially that of Mag and Faey, who discovers love for her waxling.
It is easy to see why Ombria in Shadow is still in print after so many years. It is a perplexing, demanding and lyrical book that will keep the reader thinking long after it is finished.
Pat Pledger

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