four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
19-Nov-Dec-2005
By: 
Paul Park
user_rating: 
0

A-PrincessRoumaniaMiranda is an ordinary 15-year-old living in western Massachusetts, experiencing a teenager’s usual angst. The only evidence of her past—she was adopted from a Roumanian orphanage at age three—are an antique bauble and a book titled The Essential History. Are they somehow related to her haunting dreams, in which she sees a seaside villa and an elderly woman who instructs her to keep her book safe? Soon, Miranda and her two best friends are whisked away to an alternate 18th-century Earth, where Miranda is nothing less than a deposed princess who must face evil forces she doesn’t yet understand.
Tor Books. 368 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0765310961

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"The first chapters of this story are utterly riveting. . . . By the book’s end (and it resolves in an entirely satisfactory fashion for the first segment of a series), fans of complex, foreboding fantasy will be eager for the next installment of Park’s dark drama." John Alden

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Multiple complicated characters make a rich tale of a girl growing up and a dark alternate history. . . . A Princess of Roumania puts Park into the top ranks of modern fantasy writers." Fred Cleaver

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"But here’s the real plot twist: This trite conceit actually yields a smart political drama—one laced with paranoia-inducing saboteurs and riddling apparitions—that jumps between a handful of intertwining stories to gripping if occasionally confusing effect. It’s a journey almost as gratifying as the magic trick pulled off by Park, who should be knighted for breathing life into an oft-tired genre." Nisha Gopalan

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As A Princess of Roumania continues, Park plays with odd resonances between his two worlds. . . . Virtually all the characters are surprisingly complex, true mixes of light and dark, often unsure of what they’re doing, suffering both mischance and, less often, good fortune." Michael Dirda

Critical Summary

"The world is in two places," says Miranda’s The Essential History. "One false and one real." You guessed it: we’re in the fake one. In his first of a planned series, Park borrows the idea of alternate worlds from J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, and even L. Frank Baum—a trick tried and true. Not surprisingly, certain complications thwart Miranda’s attempt to claim her rightful place in the "real" world. Despite Park’s generic theme, he draws complex characters (even as Miranda’s friends transform into new roles) and convincing political ploys. The tale stalls a bit when Park ventures deep into 18th-century life, but fans will anxiously await the sequel, The Tourmaline, due out next year.