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The Tourmaline
Paul Park
Tor, 350 pages

The Tourmaline
Paul Park
Paul Park has written several novels, including Celestis and The Gospel of Corax. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and several anthologies. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, Deborah, and their daughter, Miranda.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Princess of Roumania
SF Site Review: If Lions Could Speak and Other Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The Tourmaline continues Paul Park's new fantasy series that began last year with A Princess of Roumania. (There will apparently be at least two more books.) This is proving to be a fascinating extended work, with odd and original characters (including some very interesting tormented villains) and written in a fairly distinctive voice.

The basic conceit is that our world is a construct, made by a Roumanian sorceress to protect her young niece, Miranda Popescu. Miranda may be the "White Tyger," the great hope for a return to glory of Roumania, and for protection against their agressive German neighbors. But when Miranda's uncle is framed for treason and murdered, and her mother imprisoned in Germany, her Aunt creates an alternate world (ours) and places her in present day Massachusetts to grow up. The first book tells how the Baroness Ceausescu, her aunt's enemy, manages to find and destroy the book "containing" our world, returning Miranda (and two companions) to the wilds of lightly inhabited North America in the curious alternate world of her birth.

The Tourmaline opens with Miranda having magically made her way to Roumania, but five years in the future. The Baroness, who thinks she herself is the White Tyger, is now the head of Roumania's puppet government after a German occupation. Miranda's two companions, a boy named Peter Gross who is now mostly a man, Pieter de Graz; and a girl named Andromeda who now alternates between being a dog and being another man, Sasha Prochenko (yet who is still also somehow Andromeda); are marooned in America but soon find a strange way to Turkey. The Elector of Ratisbon, the enemy of both Baroness Ceausescu and of Miranda, has been confined to his home in Germany, but he still holds Miranda's mother and the Baroness's son, and he remains a powerful sorcerer. The book follows Miranda's struggling realization of her possible destiny as the White Tyger, and her halting attempts to begin a resistance. At the same time, Peter and Andromeda, in their various forms, try to find a way to Roumania. The Baroness holds the tourmaline, Kepler's Eye, which has the power to make people love her, and she tries to balance her need for German support of her position with her hate for them -- scheming among other things to import nuclear material from technologically advanced Africa. And the Elector tries to restore his power base in Germany, while magically keeping track of Miranda. Indeed, everyone, one way or another, is after Miranda, who escapes again and again by accident, destiny, and magic.

It remains a truly fascinating world, with a subtly revealed background, consisting of the odd magical system (to some extent based on Hermes Trismegistus), of such geographical changes as the fact that England has been destroyed by earthquakes, and of the different religions: one based on King Jesus and his Queen, Mary Magdalene, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Roumanian royal house (including Miranda), another based on ancient Greek myths, and so on. In The Tourmaline, Miranda becomes a more interesting character as she begins to take a modicum of control of her life. The Baroness Ceausescu is an affecting villainess, for example spending much of her time composing an opera in her head. The other characters are also odd and quite believable. It must be said that the book, as with many middle books, does not so much come to an end as simply stop -- we must wait for the concluding books for full satisfaction. But I will certainly be looking for the rest of the series.

Copyright © 2006 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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