Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

cover of Ombria in Shadow (UK edition) cover of Ombria in Shadow (US edition)

This is a mesmerizing, magical book full of fascinating characters. It begins and ends with two different stories that are told as if they were merely a folk-tale or a legend, but of course in the world of Ombria the tales hint at more truth than even the characters telling them realize.

Ombria is a city in political turmoil; the prince of the city has just died, and his young son and heir falls under the shadow of the dark, insidious Domina Pearl, an ancient woman with unknown powers and a desire to control Ombria.

After re-reading this book, I understand better why it might be classified as a Young Adult book-- much of the book focuses on the intriguing character of Mag, and in a way it is a "coming of age" story for her. Mag has grown up believing she is a "waxling" created by the powerful Sorceress Faey who lives under the city, but Mag gradually discovers she is human, and must struggle to discover where she belongs. It's easy to sympathize with Mag as she begins to take tiny actions of meddling in palace politics, through small gestures of help and small interferences in Faey's spells when she disagrees with their aims.

There are plenty of other fascinating characters in Ombria in Shadow. Kyel is the young prince, mourning his father and unsure who to trust, who speaks more truthfully through his golden, ornate puppets. Ducon is a handsome bastard son of the late prince, who could try to take advantage of the political upheaval for himself, but instead he does his best to take care of the young Kyel, and continues sketching the people and places and shadows in Ombria-- and discovers that there is a magical quality to his skill with charcoal. Lydea, the dead prince's mistress, is another character (like Ducon and Mag) who does not know where she belongs. Because of her love for Kyel, she persuades Faey to give her a magical disguise so she can be near the young prince without the dangerous Domina Pearl discovering her. I love the moment when Ducon cautions Lydea not to feel, because her passion is a stronger spell than Faey's disguise.

The most interesting character, however, is the sorceress Faey who is somehow connected with Ombria and its Shadow city, and who always wears different faces from Ombria's past. She seems somewhat sinister, especially at first, but is clearly offended when people compare her to the evil Domina Pearl; we learn the most about her through her relationship with Mag. I particularly loved her nonchalance during the climax of the book-- she is ancient enough to have experienced it many times, and doesn't seem to understand completely what is happening, but it doesn't worry her, either. Faey seems similar to some of the other powerful females in McKillip's other books, particularly Brume from In the Forests of Serre, who is also connected to her land, although more sinister.

The ending is lovely & masterful. We get a story that may be an answer to some of Mag's questions (but it also may not be), and although most of the characters don't remember what happened before the climactic shift in Ombria, it is suggested that Mag and Faey both remember what they have experienced, along with the reader.

Title:Ombria in Shadow
Author:Patricia McKillip
Date published:2002
Genre:Fantasy / Young Adult
Number of pages:291
Notes:Second reading. I purchased my copy of this book in London.


Google Search