First sentence: ‘While the ruler of the ancient city of Ombria lay dying, his mistress, frozen out of the room by the black stare of Domina Pearl, drifted like a bird on a wave until she bumped through Kyel Greve’s unguarded door to his bed, where he was playing with his puppets.’
Ombria is the oldest city in the world, the most beautiful city in the world, the most powerful city in the world, and when its prince dies his young son is left an orphan. As his regent, the ancient great-aunt Domina Pearl rules the court and its city with an iron fist and dark magic. With the other claimants to the throne half in their graves already with age, and his only cousin the illegitimate son of a dead princess, Prince Kyel is in danger of forever being the Black Pearl’s puppet. She has spent too many lifetimes scheming to rule Ombria to let a mere little boy stand in her way.
But behind the walls of the palace is a secret palace; under the city is a secret city; behind Ombria is a shadow world with a life of its own. It seems that there is no one in these two worlds who cares for Prince Kyel — none except the illegitimate cousin, Ducon the artist, and Lydea, the prince’s mistress thrown out to the streets to be killed for the jewels in her hair and her dancing shoes made of sapphire. A girl of wax who swallowed a heart finds herself meddling in the spells of both the sorceress under the city and the Black Pearl’s, bringing Ducon and Lydea together to save the child prince of Ombria, and them all.
I love Patricia A. McKillip, and I loved Ombria in Shadow. I discovered Patricia A. McKillip several months ago when I was looking for Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier — the cover art for these two authors is very similar in style. Last September, I read Kelly’s copy of Od Magic and fell in love — where has Patricia A. McKillip been all my life? I told Kelly I would read anything by McKillip, and because Kelly is a wonderful friend, I received six (6) books by Patricia A. McKillip for Christmas. I have since read The Changeling Sea, and The Book of Atrix Wolf, and now Ombria in Shadow, and what can I say? I am still smitten with this author. Her stories are dreamlike, enchanting; her characters unassuming, natural, and real; her prose lyrical, musical; her descriptions as beautiful as a pre-Raphaelite painting. Sadly, I only own three more books of hers to read, but fortunately she has written lots, lots more.
Should you read Ombria in Shadow? Yes, you should, and other books by her, too.