Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania will delight fantasy readers with its mix of intrigue, death and the possibility of rebirth. Park, author of half a dozen science fiction novels and a wonderful short story collection, has turned in an interesting first volume in what promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking series. Miranda is a teenager in a college town in northwestern Massachusetts. She has at least one odd habit she remembers all of her dreams and occasionally she finds herself thinking about her birth mother in Roumania. Even though her best friend is in Europe, she is bent on enjoying the last weeks of summer before the return to school and the rush toward college. However, everything is not as it seems. And everything that phrase might usually mean in a fantasy novel is also not what it seems. Miranda's birth family is much farther away than she thought; she finds unexpected help and discovers new enemies; and the boy she meets in the forest becomes much more to her than she thought possible. One of the best characters, Baroness Ceausescu, is also one of the scariest: she acts first and only later works out her motivations. She mirrors the novel from within as Park gives us nuggets of story which only come to fruition and understanding much later. Miranda finds she must face up to the dreams and responsibilities of a nation. It is no life for a teenage girl. But is Miranda actually that young? Or are there even more differences between the land she was born in and the place she grew up? Readers will be kept guessing until the end, when they will begin the wait for the next book.
Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.