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A Princess of Roumania [Paperback]

Paul Park


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Tor (July 6 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330452177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330452175
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strange, imaginative and haunting novel July 12 2005
By A. Case - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sparking and vivid fantasy July 12 2005
By David Lomax - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paul Park's new novel, the first in a trilogy, is an astounding work. When I turned the last page, I was stunned by the thought of how far the story had taken me in just 368 pages.

What is particularly remarkable is how Park takes some very familiar tropes (an adopted child from a magical world, tokens that are clues to her identity, warring conjurers) and shines them to such lustre that they seem not just fresh but entirely new.

The author's greatest feat is the way in which all of the characters appear as rich and interesting people -- even those who occupy the positions of villians. Baroness Ceausescu is identified by the narrative early on as "evil" yet the story itself resists such easy definitions. She has emerged, by the end, as a complex and vital character.

Much of the latter half of this wonderful novel takes place in a sort of alternate Europe and concerns a conflict between Roumania and Germany. In this conflict, a mess of betrayals, plots and diplomacy, there are also no stock villains.

All this, and I haven't even talked about about the three protaginists of the story. Many writers who do not normally write for young audiences fail to get the voices and emotions of teenage characters correct, but not Paul Park. As the lives of Miranda, Peter and Andromeda get more and more complicated by their translation into the magical world of the story, their personalities stay grounded and believable. Even when Peter and Andromeda begin to manifest new (perhaps "true") personalities as the Chevalier Pieter de Graz and war hero Sacha Prochenko, they still ring true as real teens in unreal situations.

However, I don't mean to suggest that this is solely a teen novel. It's dark and the politics are complex. I'd recommend this for those (of any age) who are ready for more meat than Harry Potter. It ought also to appeal to those who appreciate Neil Gaiman's _American Gods_ or Jonathan Carroll's _The Bones of the Moon_. It's complex, beautiful, magical and cool.

Too bad we're going to have to wait for the sequel.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's familiar and different at the same time - overall, I'd recommend it Aug. 14 2006
By Karrigan Ambrian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was extremely excited to sink into this book after spotting its striking cover at the bookstore, opening it up, and seeing all the praise the critics heaped on it.

After reading it, I can see what the critics loved about it, I suppose. It does exude a "different" sort of atmosphere - nothing is ever exactly as you'd expect. And yet...it is. There were many moments and aspects of the story that reminded me of other books I'd read, but it still had an atmosphere all its own. Here's a quick description, and really illustrates what I mean:

A teenager is brought to another fantasy world...based upon on our world, where England was overcome by a tidal wave and other countries - Germany - are dominant. She discovers she's the princess of an enslaved country...a POLITICALLY enslaved country - there's no true "villains" here, no smoke and chains, and only the girl and her family are truly in danger. Two friends from her own world came to this new world with her - a boy whose presence leads to many Tense Kiss-Me-Or-Not moments...but most often "not" because of a surprising...THING about one of his hands. Her other friend is a girl...who also goes through a surprising change that I won't spoil. Her allies in this new world are loyal to her aunt and family...and of the two, one doesn't last past one chapter, and the other is a coward, plain and simple. The main "villain" in the story is a woman who does some truly evil things...and cries about them afterward, and feeds herself anger to overwhelm any compassion she feels for her "victims."

Narration-wise, it was refreshingly adult for a teenage fantasy book. Just before you get tired of the whiny teenage characters, something happens and/or they do something surprisingly adult, and you're reminded once again that this book is truly a thing of its own.

I could go on for a while, but I think you get the basic point - overall, the story is pretty predictable, but still enjoyable to read because things are just "different." In the end, this is still the basic teenage fantasy dish, but the ingredients inside it are so different it's probably worth taking a bite anyway.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! June 25 2006
By L. Howle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This remarkable book has turned out to be one of the most satisfying novels I've read in the past year. It blends archetypal themes from fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, and the best of classic literature into something entirely new and refreshing. "A Princess of Roumania" is unique, enigmatic, and delightfully entertaining with it's fabulous characters and unexpected twists and turns. I'm looking forward to reading the remainder of the quartet of novels that includes "The Tourmaline," soon to be released in July.

Never predictable and always intriguing, "A Princess of Rumania" is a most unusual coming of age story where a normal high school girl's life is turned upside down when she finds herself suddenly thrust into an alternate reality where she is a legend come to life. A short description of the plot can't begin to describe the vividly drawn, complex characters and richly imagined world that Paul Park has created in this remarkable alternate history. It's a charming, compelling, and surprising work that is destined to become a classic.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic Aug. 6 2006
By Henry J. Farrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've just finished reading Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania (warning: mild spoilers ahead). The book deserves to become a modern classic; it's as good and as serious as the first two books of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials." I've been an admirer of Park's novels for a long time. His previous books are wonderful, but there's a clear progression from the gorgeous, baroque, but slightly undisciplined prose of his first book, Soldiers of Paradise and its somewhat inferior sequels, through Celestis to Three Marys which is written in language as plain and lovely as a stone. "A Princess of Roumania" is better again - strange images rendered more striking by the very matter-of-factness with which they are described. His first novel for young adults, it takes a standard plot - a girl and her companions catapulted into a strange new world of magic and enchantment - and does unexpected things with it. There are many novels in which the characters come to realize that they are inhabiting a fictional world, in which "the laws of the universe are the laws of genre." Much of the power of A Princess comes from its refusal of the cosiness that this all too often implies.

I've a theory, which I suspect is hardly original to me, that the magic in really good children's fantasy draws its resonance from a child's perception of what it must be like to be grown up. When you're a child or a pre-adolescent, the adult world seems an attractive and terrifying place. Adults have power, but are driven by forces and desires that a child can only dimly understand; wild magic. Thus, for example, when Susan rides with the daughters of the moon and the Wild Hunt in Alan Garner's The Moon of Gomrath, she's glimpsing for a moment what it will be like to be a woman. In contrast, the magic in mediocre children's fantasy is all too often domesticated, rationalized, and stripped of its real force. A Princess of Roumania seems to me to be an oblique rejoinder to the kind of children's fantasy in which magic is under control, in which the child goes home. There's no returning for Miranda Popescu; her entire world (our world) turns out to be an elaborate fiction, a shelter from reality that quite literally disappears in a puff of smoke. She and her friends are propelled, only half grown-up into the world of adulthood, of complex responsibilities and obligations. A world where magic exists, but isn't really understood, where adults lay complicated plans, but don't know what they're doing most of the time. In most fantasy, the hero or heroine is fulfilling a plot, a prophecy, a pre-ordained destiny - at the pivotal moment in A Princess, Miranda refuses the path that has been laid out for her, and the power of adults to decide what to do with her life, instead deciding herself. All this, and the Baroness Nicola Ceausescu, perhaps the most wonderfully described, and sympathetic villainess that I've ever seen in a YA book. I can't say more than to reiterate that the book is a delight.

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