This novel opens in a real place in the present (the quiet, rural college town of Williamstown, Massachusetts), but its main characters, three high school students, soon find themselves transported to an alternate world, in which Roumania is the heir to the Roman Empire, Christianity is an obscure fringe cult, and magic is a force of nature--not fully understood by those who wield it, and rife with unexpected consequences. The three teenagers begin to discover that they themselves have histories and identities in this world, ones very different from the selves they believe themselves to be. Miranda, the central character, who was adopted as an infant from a (this worldly) Romanian orphanage, turns out to be the heir to the throne in this other Roumania. The center of a passionate and violent power struggle, she had been sent by her powerful aunt to a magical refuge that is our world. Her companions, born and raised in Williamstown, carry the spirits of two faithful and resourceful military officers sent along to guard the princess. This is not Harry-Potter- style cookbook magic: its transformations produce errors and slippages no one expects, and its effects can be altered, but never quite undone,. The central characters find themselves between identities, or elsewhere altogether-- Miranda's best friend Andromeda, a popular high school Queen Bee at home, was originally a handsome young officer named Sasha Prochenko, but on her return, to everyone's puzzlement, takes the form of a yellow dog. Paul Park has conjured a vivid and strange world full of complex power struggles and larger-than-life personalities, but also one with the messiness, ambivalence and uncertainties of real life. By the way, the book has next to nothing to do with the real Romania. "Roumanian" characters in the novel run the full gamut from faithful heros to sinister plotters, as they would in any adventure story. Readers anxious about Eastern European stereotypes should read the novel before judging it!