I love all of McKillip’s work, as least so far. She can really manage enchantment: her Ombria is a strange world, decaying and bright, mysterious and intriguing. There’s a lot going on here: the magic behind Faey and her waxling, the magic behind Domina Pearl, Ducon’s father and Mag’s origins… And there’s characters you can’t help but care about: Kyel, so alone; Lydea, who loves him; Ducon, the bastard son with no designs upon the throne, who spends his time drawing, searching, learning the city and seeing it in ways others can’t. And the details, like Lydea’s bitten fingernails, the charcoal stains Ducon leaves on the bedsheets so everyone knows where he’s been sleeping and when.
And of course, the hidden passageways, the secrets, the two worlds side by side.
It cast its spell very quickly over me; McKillip writes beautifully, of course, and that itself is kind of mesmerising.
Towards the ending — perhaps the last twenty pages — I was less sure of what was going on. It might pull itself together more on a reread, I’m not sure, but I was left not quite knowing who knew what was happening, who understood what, why certain things changed and others didn’t (or if they didn’t change, but people acted like they had to make things easier). I have that feeling with McKillip’s work a lot, though, and it hasn’t deterred me from picking up more.