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Ombria in Shadow Paperback – February 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

As Ombria in Shadow demonstrates, World Fantasy Award winner Patricia A. McKillip (author of Riddle-Master, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and other novels) ranks with Ursula K. Le Guin and Jane Yolen as one of the great fantasists of the 20th century--and the 21st.

The Prince of Ombria lies dying, and already his sinister great-aunt, Domina Pearl--called the Black Pearl--is seizing power. The Prince's heir is a child, a boy too young to oppose her, and the Prince's nephew is a powerless bastard, an artist preoccupied with sketching the decaying city. No one lives who may stop the Black Pearl's ascent to the throne, or so it seems. But beneath the streets of Ombria lies a second, shadow Ombria, a buried city inhabited not only by ghosts, but by a powerful, mysterious sorceress and her creation, a girl sculpted from wax. But the sorceress is a woman of uncertain allegiances, and her beautiful young assistant has become fascinated by the Prince's bastard nephew--and has caught the malevolent eye of the Black Pearl. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Harking back to some of her earliest works (namely The Forgotten Beasts of Eld), McKillip offers up a ghostly tale of human emotions gone astray in a city that lives and dies in endless cycles. Greed, despair, grief and avarice have all taken their toll on the once-beautiful city of Ombria, but it is the death of its prince that pushes it over the edge into darkness and shadow. Several key players participate in this particular procession of dying and rebirth: Kyel Greve, the new prince-to-be who is too young to rule but old enough to feel the despair of those around him; Lydea, the dying prince's lover who feels the weight of the city resting on her shoulders; Ducon Greve, the bastard prince who sees and feels the change happening but is in no position to alter the coming darkness; Domina Pearl, the sorceress who is pushing the city even further on its path of destruction; and Mag and Faey, two mysterious women who hold some of the past, present and future of Ombria inside them. In tone more gothic horror than straight fantasy, this somber novel lacks a clear protagonist, each character being more intent on finding his or her own path than fighting any clear battle. But the fine prose is nothing less than what one would expect from a World Fantasy Award winner, while the detailed portraits of the dying city coupled with the gloomy attitude of its citizenry are quite chilling.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441010164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441010165
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Patricia McKillip at her worst is far better than usual fantasy writing, and here she is in fine form. Three-dimensional characters, flowing plot, flowery prose all meld together into a satisfying novel.
Gloom and shadow fall over the city of Ombria as its ruling prince lies dying, leaving four people in the palace: Kyel, his child-heir who is traumatized by the loss of his family and friends. Lydea, the prince's mistress from a tavern, who genuinely mourns him. Domina Pearl (also called "Black Pearl"), an ancient, hideous, deathless, inhuman woman who seeks to control Kyel for her own power over Ombria. And Ducon Greve, the prince's silver-eyed nephew, whose father is a mystery and who expresses himself through charcoal drawings.
When the prince dies, Kyel becomes the new prince -- but not before Domina Pearl throws Lydea out of the palace, and she flees to her father's grimy tavern -- only to find that she longer belongs there, but that she never belonged at the palace either.. Ducon is asked by nobles to try to overthrow the Black Pearl, but his sole concern seems to be for Kyel's safety, and he cannot act if it could hurt his young cousin. And in the "undercity," the sorceress Faey (who is definitely not human) is hired to "undo" Ducon -- except her waxling Mag (a living creature formed from wax) doesn't want Ducon to be killed.
But the political strife is only a portent of things to come. It's all linked to strange, ancient events that start with "perilous times, a desperate city, the ruling house in chaos, in danger." It's all linked to Ducon, Domina Pearl, Mag, a locket of blood and rose petals, a children's tale, and the shadow.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Diana Nier on March 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Reading Patricia McKillip is akin to lucid dreaming; I am aware that the world is not real and is not functioning according to everyday logic, but people and events form oddly beautiful and meaningful patterns. I slow down, reading individual words instead of compressing them into sentences and paragraphs; McKillip's language is half the pleasure of her books.
The other thing I love about McKillip is how little her books resemble cookie-cutter "fantasy" dreck. While her books are all reminiscent of each other, they are all individual. And they are not like anything else I've read. "Ombria in Shadow" is no exception.
Ombria is an ancient city; its past lies buried underground, layers of buildings and previous incarnations of the city shrouded in darkness. Aboveground, the city is troubled. The prince has died, leaving his five-year-old son Kyel Greve under the control of Domina Pearl, a woman who is steadily running Ombria into the ground for her own purposes. She is opposed by the prince's mistress, Lydea; his bastard nephew, the artist Ducon Greve; Mag, the "waxling" servant of a mysterious sorceress who lives in the underground city; and various coalitions of nobles who know nothing of the magical forces also working in Ombria.
Magic and legends of a shadow city weave in and out of the political story. I am still not sure how everything connects, particularly since none of the characters completely understands what happens towards the end. I am not terribly convinced by the explanations given to Ducon and Mag, and the last chapter left me thoroughly confused. However, while the story leaves a lot to be desired on the everyday level, the end *feels* right.
I just wish it made sense, too.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Reedekullervo on May 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Mckillip's best prose returns as she renders this tale of an ancient city teetering between present and past in a rich and satisfying read. She draws you in with her wonderfully rendered language and holds you throughout with this story of tavern-keeper's daughters, ancient sorceresss, bastard princes, amoral tutors and scheming nobles as they via to bring their vision of the city of Ombria from off the pages of history and fairy tale to waking life. Sound like any number of stereotypical fantasy conventions? Think again. Patricia Mckillip is never anything less than original, even when borrowing the trappings of convential fantasy.
While each person is interesting the city itself is another character, one afflicted with duel personalities, and Mckillip renders its odd corners, endless layers and hidden depths much as she would another person. The essential mystery is whether Ombria is two cities, one identity dominant while the other lies dormant. The conflict between the two halves of the city is mirrored in the opposing forces of the two sorceress, Dominia Pearl, regent to a powerless boy-prince (and a pirate to boot!)who is determined to bring the shadow city to life for her gain. Faey, a power so old she has forgetten more than any remember goes her own way in the hidden undercity of Ombria, sending her "waxling" Mag into the world to fetch her needs. Only when Mag decides to meddle in the affairs of the Black Pearl and join with those opposing her is Faey moved to act.
Mckillip's tale winds through secret passages in the castle, between the covers of old children's tales and in the sketches of the bastard painter Ducon as the stuggle for power and possession of the city unfolds. Only through unlocking the mysteries of their own shadowy pasts will Mag and Ducon hope to tip the balance of Ombria to the side of light. The end, when it comes is a bittersweet one, for both the characters and the reader. A thoroughly engrossing tale.
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