Welcome to the first instalment of the Strange Horizons book club! On the fourth Monday of each month, we’ll be posting a round-table discussion about a speculative work (or work of interest to readers of SF), and we invite you join us for further conversation in the comments. November’s book will be Nick Harkaway’s novel Tigerman (other forthcoming picks are listed here); but this month we’re discussing Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip.
McKillip’s 25th novel, Ombria was first published in 2002, following which it won the World Fantasy Award in 2003. It has received its first UK edition this year as a Fantasy Masterwork from Gollancz. It is the story of a city, and a succession: as the novel opens, Royce Greve, the Prince of Ombria, is dying, and his great-aunt Domina Pearl is planning to rule as regent for the Prince’s young son, Kyel. We meet three viewpoint characters—Lydea, the dying ruler’s mistress, who is expelled from the palace on his death; Ducon, his bastard nephew, who may be in a position to challenge Domina, if he chooses; and Mag, a “waxling” who may or may not be fully human, who lives with the sorceress Faey in the city’s shadows and past. What follows is a power struggle of sorts, a questioning of loyalties and identities, and ultimately a moment of crisis and change for all Ombria.