Patricia McKillip,
Ombria in Shadow
(Ace, 2002)

Patricia McKillip weaves another exquisite and magical tapestry in Ombria in Shadow.

Royce Greve, prince of Ombria, dies, leaving his young son Kyel to rule. Domina Pearl, ever so many times great-aunt to the prince, appoints herself regent and turns Royce's young mistress, Lydea, out into the streets. Heartbroken at the loss of Royce and of Kyel, Lydea survives her flight through the midnight city back to her father's tavern, aided by what seems to be a ragged shadow. Soon she is drawn into a seething intrigue surrounding Kyel, involving as well Kyel's uncle, Ducon Greve; an ageless sorceress, Faey; and Faey's "waxling," a girl named Mag who begins to suspect that she wasn't made of candle wax after all.

Shadows both real and metaphorical abound in this book, from the shadow city revealed on a fan when held to the light, to the old and abandoned city underground where Faey lives. The palace also contains hidden and unused rooms, and in one room a mysterious doorway awaits.

McKillip displays her usual artistry with rich, vivid imagery and luminous writing. She unfolds her story delicately and precisely, as if opening a fragile fan. The characters are beautifully developed, as is the plot, and they mesh perfectly. There are threads of humor and horror running through the narrative, like fiery sparks to keep the plot moving and create suspense.

As with McKillip's recent books, Ombria in Shadow is smaller than the average hardback and graced with a gorgeous dust jacket illustration by Kinuko Y. Craft. Ombria in Shadow confirms the opinion that McKillip's work keeps getting better and better, and fans and new readers alike will not be disappointed.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 4 May 2002

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