A PRINCESS OF ROUMANIA
by Paul Park
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
A Princess of Roumania is Paul Park's story of two worlds. The first world is our own, while the other world is one in which Roumania rules over a broad European empire. Connecting these two worlds is Miranda Popescu, a young orphan in our own world. Miranda was adopted from an orphanage in Romania when she was three and has been raised in Massachusetts. As with many fantasy novels, Miranda is not what she seems, and the same can be said for all those around her.
While A Princess of Roumania could have been a straightforward lost identity tale, Park's writing and attention to literary style raises the novel about the trite and clichéd fantasy novels which all too often find their way onto the shelves of the local bookstore and into the hands of readers. Stylistically, the book is reminiscent of the works of John Crowley or Gene Wolfe.
However, style is not enough to make a novel worthwhile, and Park does not allow his stylistic endeavors to overshadow his plot or his characters. His characters form attachments based on rational and irrational bases, just as in real life. They Have their own interests and are attempting, to the best of their abilities, to look out for themselves, never forgetting their friends.
Only fifteen, Miranda finds herself caught up in Byzantine mechanization as the inhabitants of her native land. Plotting against each other, with Miranda caught in the middle, are her aunt, Aegypta Schenk, and the Baroness Nicola Ceausescu, possibly the alternate world's version of Nicolai Ceausescu, who figured into Miranda's own history. While it appears clear that the Baroness is working against Miranda's interest and Aegypta is trying to rescue her, Park introduces enough uncertainty to keep the reader wondering.
Although Park does not complete Miranda's story in A Princess of Roumania, Tor pleasantly announces the sequel, The Tourmaline, on the front cover flap, Park does set an interesting paradox for Miranda to overcome. Although a potentially prophesied character in her native Roumania, her upbringing in our own Massachusetts has resulted in a person who belongs more to our world than her own, an interesting dilemma for the idea of nature vs. nurture.
A Princess of Roumania starts out slowly, with Park carefully laying the groundwork for everything that is to follow. He does this successfully enough that the reader doesn't even realize Park is providing the necessary world building until suddenly things begin to come together as Miranda is drawn deeper into the plots of Roumania.
While it many not be entirely fair to form a conclusion about A Princess of Roumania until subsequent volumes of Miranda Popescu's story are told, it can be safely said that Park has set up an intriguing and original fantasy series which appears as if it will be rewarding when it is finished.
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