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Prince Ombra

by Roderick MacLeish

trade paperback edition

Bentley Ellicott is a hero of the borrowed heart.

Throughout human history, the essence of evil, Prince Ombra, has periodically embodied itself on Earth. And it has always been met in battle by a warrior who has been aware of his mission from birth. The great heroes of legend--King Arthur, Hector of Troy, Gilgamesh--all shared the same warrior heart. If they were defeated by Prince Ombra, the world was plunged into a period of darkness and strife.

Bentley is the latest in this line of heroes. He's also a nine-year-old boy with a withered leg, living in a contemporary village in coastal Maine. Most of the townspeople think Bentley is crazy or just plain weird; the only people who believe in his mission are his shrink and a little girl with a speech defect.

Boy of Destiny [tm] vs. Embodiment of Pure Evil is not exactly a new premise in fantasy, no matter what the cover blurbs say. However, MacLeish doesn't wallow in the cliches. The story manages to be fresh and interesting largely because of the complex and believable characters who help and hinder Bentley. They have their own motivations and interaction; the only aspect of the character interaction that frustrated me was that whenever Ombra was in ascendancy, the townspeople acted according to their baser natures; it made them seem more like puppets than people. (This, of course, may have been intended. Still, it irritated me.)

MacLeish's prose is lovely and lucid, and the plot moves along fairly quickly. The contemporary setting gives the story a somewhat mainstream feel; it's not steeped in the conventions of the fantasy genre. Prince Ombra is a pleasant read, and a good book to give to readers who don't normally read fantasy.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
July 1994

trade paperback edition
Publisher: Tor Orb
Date: June 1994 (originally published in 1982)
ISBN: 0-312-89024-9
Binding: trade paperback
Pages: 320
Price: US $11.95

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Sep 2001 / CMS