The sequel to Park's stunning fantasy debut, A Princess of Roumania.
Teenager Miranda Popescu is at the fulcrum of a deadly political and diplomatic battle between conjurers in an alternate fantasy world where "Roumania" is a leading European power. Miranda was hidden by her aunt in our world. An American couple adopted and raised her in their quiet Massachusetts college town, but she had been translated by magic back to her own world, and is at large, five years in the future.
The mad Baroness Ceaucescu in Bucharest, and the sinister alchemist, the Elector of Ratisbon, who holds her true mother prisoner in Germany are her enemies. This is the story of how Miranda -- separated from her two best friends, Peter and Andromeda who have been left behind in the forests of an alternate America -- begins to grow into her own personality. And how Peter and Andromeda are shockingly changed in the process of making their way to Roumania to find Miranda again at the end of this book.
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About the Author
PAUL PARK lives in North Adams, MA
PAUL PARK is the author of A Princess of Roumania, and numerous other novels. He published his first novel in the 1980s and swiftly attracted notice as one of the finest authors on the "humanist" wing of American SF. His powerful, densely written narratives of religious and existential crisis on worlds at once exotic and familiar won him comparisons with Gene Wolfe and Brian Aldiss at their best. He lives in North Adams, Massachusetts.
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By Park, Paul
Tor BooksCopyright © 2006 Park, Paul
All right reserved.
The Hoosick River
All afternoon they searched the riverbank. Peter went a mile in both directions, tramping through the high reeds next to the water. At intervals he called Miranda's name.
It was a bright, clear day. The reeds were golden in the winter sunlight, which dazzled him and blinded him when he stopped to catch his breath. But the light had no warmth in it. Past three, the shallow water in the hummocks and the roots were covered with a veiny skin of ice. Peter's feet were numb inside his running shoes. Hoarse and discouraged, he went back to the boat to search for woolen gloves.
Andromeda was no help. Since her transformation, she'd never been a barking kind of dog. She'd scarcely made a sound except for a breathless wheezing almost like speech. But now she ran in circles on the higher ground, yelping and howling. Sometimes she had her nose down, but there was nothing methodical in the way she sniffed and searched. She might just as well have chased her tail.
How much was left of her? Peter asked himself. Packed in her dog's narrow skull, how much was left of the girl he'd known? Raevsky--the old man--was better, more effective. He kept to the place in the high pines where they'd last seen Miranda, before she'd faded and vanished into the air. He went outward fromthe clearing in a spiral, his pistol in his hand.
In the morning he'd been stiff and lame, and in the afternoon he still moved slowly. He limped down the steep bank to meet Peter at the boat.
Six hours ago they'd pulled out of the current and stopped at this curved, sandy shore. Lured by--what? Peter had seen someone he thought he recognized, a woman in a long skirt. She'd called to them from the high ground. Then she'd come to greet them as they brought the boat to shore.
At that moment all of them had been waylaid by something separate, some illusion from the past. Miranda didn't even glance at the woman, the Condesa de Rougemont in her embroidered vest. She didn't wait for the boat to come to land. She'd thrown down her paddle and stepped out into the shallow water. She'd scrambled up the slope and disappeared into the woods and that was that.
What was she looking for in this empty forest, on this empty river? Now she was gone, and Peter stood with his hands in his pockets where Raevsky had drawn the boat onto the pebbles. Above him somewhere, Andromeda yipped and wailed.
"No reason to seek more," said Captain Raevsky with his sibilant Roumanian accent. His gun was in his pocket and he blew on his hands. He moved his weight from one boot to the other, because of the cold or because his feet were sore. "Now we make camping."
Peter was relieved to hear him say so. Stamping though the frozen reeds, Peter had already half-convinced himself it made more sense to leave. They must be close to where the Hoosick River joined the Hudson near Mechanicville. He remembered the distances from home. He and his parents had driven up to Saratoga more than once. But in this world there was no town before Albany, and even Albany was a tiny place with just a few thousand souls, as Raevsky called them. But there'd be food in Albany. Food was what they didn't have, except for some stale biscuits.
They could put in a couple of more hours on the river. Miranda had left them. There was no reason to stay. Yet when he saw Raevsky reach into the flat-bottomed boat and pull out one of the big canvas bags, Peter felt a shudder in his body that was like hope. With another part of his mind he told himself he never wanted to leave this Godforsaken shore. So he dragged the tent from the pirogue and then carried it up the slope to a flat place in the golden grass, while Raevsky pulled dead branches from the trees. Andromeda was nowhere to be seen.
In the morning on this trampled rise above the river, he had seen a woman or woman's ghost, dressed in a long skirt and embroidered vest. Even a name had come to him--Inez de Rougemont. Now all that seemed dreamlike and unreal, except for the scratches on his forearms, the bites on his shoulders where the woman had attacked him, diverted him, prevented him from following Miranda. Then she'd dissolved and disappeared just as Miranda had--Peter laid out the stiff canvas and slid the stakes into the sandy ground. Because the wind was stronger now, he found some rocks for the corners. It was a military pup tent. When it was up, he brought the blankets and sleeping bags from the boat. Of them, at least, there was no lack.
These were all supplies from Raevsky's journey up the river. He'd come from Roumania to kidnap Miranda for some woman named Ceausescu--Peter was unsure of the details. But in a series of catastrophes his men had all been lost, leaving blankets enough for six or seven, but food for none.
Raevsky made a fire-ring of river stones and dragged some logs to sit on. He built up a big fire and was heating water in a tin pot. Now he sat pulling off his boots, crooning over his damaged feet, which Peter could see were mottled and discolored in some places. With his clasp knife, Raevsky scraped away some skin.
He ripped a shirt to make clean bandages, which he smeared with ointment from a jar. Grimacing, he slid his feet into his woolen socks again. Squatting among the rocks, he pounded up some biscuits in a pot, then softened them with boiling water.
He was in his fifties. Under his knit cap his hair was gray. And his beard was rough and grizzled over his blotched, uneven cheeks. When he smiled, as now, holding out a bowl of sludge and a tin cup of ouzo, Peter could see his upper teeth were missing on one side.
"So. Eat. In the morning, then we see."
"I'll stay here," Peter said impulsively, idiotically.
Raevsky shrugged. "Is nothing. Why? She is not here."
Peter sat with his warm biscuits in his wooden bowl. Off in the woods, Andromeda yowled and was silent.
Raevsky stared at him. His eyebrows were coarse, his eyes sunken and bright. "What you saw?" he asked, finally.
Peter shrugged. It sounded stupid to say. "There was a woman. She called out to me. Rougemont or something--she was dressed, I don't know, like a Gypsy. Now I can't even remember. Look," he said. He put down his cup and bowl, then held up his hands. They were scabbed and torn.
"And so? I did not see this Gypsy."
Now it was getting dark. The sun was down behind the trees on the far bank.
"So?" Peter said.
Raevsky blew his nose on his fingers. Then he wiped them on his trousers. "When you saw Miss Popescu . . ."
He spat into the fire. In a moment he went on. "You smell burning smell? Fire burning and black powder? Then something, some ordure, and so? Murdarie--garbage?"
He sniffed to clear his nose again. "Is telling you, this murdarie of conjuring. Is like a conjure trick--no woman there. Me, I saw blackness, blindness, then you and the dog, fighting with nothing, only a spirit or shadow. Then Miss Popescu, all alone. Then nothing. She is gone."
"Yes," Peter muttered.
All afternoon he'd tried not to think about it. So he'd occupied his mind with searching and shouting and stumbling through the grass. All the time, though, he had known what Raevsky knew. She was gone. Peter could not bear to think she'd left him and gone home.
"Think!" Raevsky said. "What did you see?"
Peter felt tears in his eyes, and so he turned his face away. He sat watching the wide bend of the river below them, listening to the sound of the water. He couldn't bear to think that maybe right now she was back in Williamstown, the real Williamstown where he and she had got to know each other and had gone to school, and where his mother was buried and his father lived on White Oak Road. He couldn't bear to think that she had left him here in this new version of the world, where America was a deserted forest full of lunatics, and Roumania of all places was a great power, and he didn't know anyone at all.
"I saw her in the clearing," he said. "And above the trees I could see something, the outline of a building. Just for a moment--it was farther on. I was looking at Miranda, but I saw this other thing out of the corner of my eye, a stone building. Then she was gone, and when I looked up there was nothing."
"Make me this house." Raevsky sat forward on his log. He took a drink from his tin cup, then held his left hand out in front of him toward the fire. "Make me look."
Peter sighed. "It was big. A tall narrow building with a tower. Stone walls. Wooden shutters. And a copper roof--you know that green copper. Just the roof--I saw it above the trees. There was a steeple on the tower."
"Ah," Raevsky said. "You did not see this before?"
"No, but . . ."
"What did you smell? Did you smell this garbage . . . ?"
"No. But there was something. Salt, I think."
They sat staring at each other. "Again," Raevsky said. "Before you say 'No, but . . .' "
"I didn't think about it. Not till now. But Miranda told me about something like that, maybe in Romania. Roumania, whatever."
"Yes," Raevsky hissed. He gestured with his tin cup of liquor. "And you know nothing. But I tell you. This is her father's house, Prince Frederick Schenck von Schenck who sold us to the Germans. If not for Ceausescu--no, is not important. She is there! You will see. In Roumania. Salt, you were smelling at Constanta on the oceanside!"
Doubtful, Peter watched him across the fire. Though not a tall man, nevertheless he was impressive, because of his big chest and long arms. His legs, though, encased in dirty woolen trousers, were spindly and small. "What am I telling you?" he said now. "You understand this thing. You saw this house when Miss Popescu was little--little girl. You and Sasha Prochenko. Is it not so? You remember this somehow!"
Peter laid down his cup and bowl. The sweet, wet biscuits were uneasy in his stomach. "I've never been to Roumania," he murmured doggedly.
Raevsky took a sip of ouzo. Then he blew his cheeks out, whistled a low note. "So is true you have no memory? Pieter de Graz--you are a famous man! I myself saw you come from Adrianople when I was with the army. More than twenty years. When you beat the Turkish champion."
Peter didn't want to listen to this. In this new version of the world he had a past, but he didn't want to hear about it. "My name is Peter Gross," he said. "I live with my father on White Oak Road. In June I'll be eighteen. This year I had Mr. Langer for English composition."
"So, maybe that was true one time. I did not know of this Herr Langer. Now I say you are the Chevalier de Graz. You and Miranda Popescu, and Prochenko too, I think you are in a dream world like inchisoare . . . like a prison. Now you wake up and one half thinks is still dreaming. One half knows truth. Look at hands."
Peter imagined he would put his hands behind his back, or else roll them in the belly of his sweater to keep warm. Instead he found himself stretching them together toward the fire, his left hand as he remembered it and his huge, new, right hand, with its black hair and chipped nails.
"Look," Raevsky said, pointing at the bull's-head birthmark below his right thumb. "Is de Graz's mark. How do you explain?"
He had no explanation. He had been born with a birth defect, a stump that ended halfway down his forearm. There'd been a time when he'd said prayers at night, hoping he would wake up whole. But not like this, with a grown man's hand, a hand that was not his own.
"How do you think you know this name, de Rougemont, who was in the gazettes and rich magazines of Bucharest twenty years before?"
Peter shook his head. Unbidden, an image came to him, a woman in a silk dress, laughing as she danced with a man in an old-fashioned uniform, with gold braid and epaulettes. "How long?" he asked.
Raevsky rubbed his nose. "Prince Frederick killed in prison before Miranda Popescu is born. That is twenty years. Then she is in Constanta with her aunt Aegypta Schenck and that is seven or so. Then nothing--she and the others gone, Prochenko and de Graz. We said the empress put them to the wall because they were Prince Frederick's men. We said the girl is . . ." He put his fist to his throat. "Now I am glad it was not so!"
"How old was he--de Graz?"
Raevsky shrugged. "Twenty-five, twenty-six and so. Even then younger than me."
Peter didn't want to hear it. More than once his parents had told him about what had happened when he was five years old. It was as if he'd forgotten how to talk. They took him to a specialist in Boston. Then in a year he'd learned again. "But you were like a different child," his mother had said. Twenty-five minus twelve plus five, he calculated now.
"So I will guess about Prochenko," Raevsky went on. "I have heard this story when a man turns to a dog. Old conjuring from Carpathian Mountains. Transylvania. You will see. I know him one time with Prince Frederick at Havsa--I see his eyes. Who is this dog now with Lieutenant Prochenko's eyes? He will come back, I say. Body and soul. Little and little."
Peter did not find this reassuring. But maybe Andromeda had had a year like his when she was small, when something new had entered her. If so, what would she grow into now? What would he grow into, little and little?
"Sasha Prochenko," he muttered aloud. And it was true. The name seemed to mean something.
"Prince Frederick's aide-de-camp," murmured Raevsky. When Andromeda yelped again from where she cowered in the woods, he lifted up his forefinger and pointed at the sky. "I tell to you," he said, "there is this duhoare, a stink of conjuring."
Peter made an effort to unload this from his mind. What did it matter about the Chevalier de Graz, the other man? He was who he was, and Andromeda, and Miranda, too. They weren't some other people. "Miranda told me about the castle on the beach," he said.
Captain Raevsky slapped his knee. "And so that is dovada--evidence. I swear to you that this is so. Here she is gone. There--she wakes up in that place. You see the house. So she is in Constanta, nowhere more. I swear on the platosa--the breasts of Nicola Ceausescu. She is there, I know. I will go to find her in that place."
As he drank more, he lapsed more into Roumanian. With his thumb he brushed the small insignium embroidered on his woolen shirtfront, the red pig of Cluj.
This was his monomania, for which he had sacrificed his men and most of himself, as Peter understood. Not for one moment did he waver now. And Peter had heard it all before: He would go and find Miranda and deliver her to the Baroness Ceausescu's house in Bucharest and receive his pay, whatever that meant--money, a kiss, a pat on the head, or a kind word. "I will take steamboat to New York City," he said now, plotting his way. "But not fear," he continued, as if to reassure Peter with what he must know was a lie. "Nicola Ceausescu will make her happy in her house. In Saltpetre Street! Your friend will live there and be glad!"
Peter wondered if the old man had ever had a conversation with this woman, the Baroness Ceausescu. What had she said to him to command him so completely? Whereas Peter had been with Miranda for many days, and felt her arms around him when he was sick, and listened to her, and argued with her, and had good days and bad days--days they'd hardly spoken. He'd known her in two worlds, at school in Massachusetts and then here, where people treated her like a piece of property to fight over and steal.
The evening had closed around them. Peter couldn't see a moon.
"You must remember Nicola Ceausescu," Raevsky went on. "Is possible you saw her in the theater. So when the baron is inside government, but he is not a husband for her. Not good husband, too old and too much wounds from fighting. Now she is in her house, still growing like a . . . flower. Is true, oh you will see in Bucharest, when she is come home to her place. I tell you when she sent us from the Gara de Nord, I and my men, and my sister's son to Bremerhaven on a train. Then she touched my hand, each one! She is no aristocrat, no snob. Daughter from people, from Roumania. Body like boy's, but skin is soft and clear!"
Around them the darkness had settled in. Peter could still see the massed shadows of the trees across the river, and over there the sky gave a charred glow. On the other side of the fire Raevsky mumbled and muttered, and Peter didn't pay him much attention. But even as he let the words get lost in his own thoughts, still he was affected by the fervid tone, if not the sense. It was not Miranda that Raevsky was describing in increasingly precise detail. Still the description brought a picture of her in Peter's mind, her dark blue eyes and pale skin and dark brows, her habit of drawing a strand of her black hair out from her face and perching it behind her ear.
"She has a spot on umar--shoulder," murmured Raevsky. "Where the line falls to chest. Oh, and the line of neck, sharp, like . . ."--on and on. In his mind's eye Peter saw not features and details so much as moods and expressions: how Miranda's forehead would grow dark with anger, which before he'd met her he'd assumed was something that could only happen in a book. How a blush suffused her cheeks, etc. The way she chewed on her lips sometimes. Gestures also: In the morning, even in the cold cave they'd stayed in when he was sick, she would step outside and do some stretches in her T-shirt, always the same order, always the same ones. Habits: They had come here without toothbrushes, and she had found a way of flossing with long strands of grass.
"We'd started to be friends before," she'd told him once. "There's no reason that has to stop." He remembered her expression when she said this, at the same time that Raevsky was describing the small lines that curled around the edges of her lips, when Nicola Ceausescu smiled.
That was enough for Peter. He couldn't listen anymore. There was something useless about this, he thought, something that felt like masturbation, particularly if Miranda was in Roumania or wherever. Far away, but he would find her before Raevsky did. What else was he supposed to do? He would take Andromeda and find her, and one day they would wake from this.
Immediately he heard Andromeda's long howl, as if it had been conjured by her name. It was closer than before. She had come out of the pine trees and was standing on the bank above the river. Now he saw her silhouetted against the lighter distance, stopping on three legs with her foreleg curled, her muzzle raised.
Copyright © 2006 by Paul Park
Excerpted from The Tourmaline by Park, Paul Copyright © 2006 by Park, Paul. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Paul Park expands his unique (almost thrillingly so) YA series with The Tourmaline. Free from the need to set-up his complex and exhaustive world, the book has a stronger narrative - though one deployed mostly in heaving its protagonists onto ever stranger shores, literally and metaphorically. Caught by devious sorceries, Miranda Popescu - the messianic "White Tyger" of Roumania - finds herself flung from a parallel-universe America all the way back to her eastern European homeland. Left behind, geographically and in other ways, are her two friends Peter and Miranda - both housing the uneasy souls of Miranda's long-gone bodyguards. If the previous book in the series was a novel of discoveries, then this is one of journeys - yet much is nonetheless revealed. I really thought this book was terrific. It's confounding in many ways; not just because of its dream-like qualities, but also because - whilst it has all the trappings - it's really not typical Young Adult literature. Park doesn't just add texture to familiar debates about good and evil, he demonstrates how arbitrary the line is before obliterating it completely. He questions the very idea of monarchy and saviours; at the same time he questions the inherent nobility of democracies. Most of all he captures the oft-times contradictory, vulnerable, and very human emotions that control us more often than we control them. The result is compelling, and almost sneakily disquieting at times - especially coming from a genre with very familiar tropes and generally limpid morality. In that context, The Tourmaline is a very political novel. It's also a very sensual novel; this isn't just a helter-skelter narrative with some kind of self-discovery metaphor stitched into it. Park shows us the plastic boundaries between interior and exterior states.The best demonstration of this lies in the book's maturity. YA novels frequently have protagonists plunged into an - unjust - world that is too complex and mature for where they come from. An understandable albeit obvious metaphor for adolescence. Park does that, too, but the difference is that it's not the world that's complex and mature; it's the characters first and foremost. The fact that the two ostensible villains of the book (adults, both) get nearly as many pages - and as much reader sympathy as the teenage protagonists - highlights this.His originality also shines through in the alternative Europe of "Roumania". No cod-medival knights for him, nor any gear-fetish steampunk blah. Roumania is multifaceted; it presents different qualities when viewed from different angles and it is glittering with original concepts and conceits; all shot through with a nod, a bow, a curtsy or a wink or an out-thrust fist to historical or mythological precedent. It is so much more sophisticated and interesting than what we're used to seeing, within the genre - and largely without, I have to say.I was so impressed to see someone write something so ambitious and mature - it's like if Thomas Mann was rewriting Narnia. The Tourmaline's splendid characterisation leaves me aching for its lonely heroes and villains, and looking forward very much to the next book in the series.
Not all alternate history is of the classic mold. You know the drill. Lee wins at Gettysburg, and the world is different because of it. Varus' legions aren't slaughtered by the Germanic tribes, and Rome continues on and on. The Spanish armada conquers England, and Shakespeare turns out to be a hero to the oppressed English. The Roumania novels are definitely different. The first novel, a Princess of Roumania, started ordinarily enough, with Andromeda, Peter and Miranda slowly discovering that their modern day New England world was in fact, an illusion, an artiface. The real world is very different, where Roumania is a major power with magic at its command, and a vicious conflict between Germany and Roumania only part of the complicated politics. The second novel takes up from the first and continues the stories of Miranda, Andromeda and Peter as they start to learn their real identities, and their destinies, in Roumania. Throw in one of the most complex and multi-sided antagonists I've read in fantasy, the Baroness Ceaucescu, a slow reveal of more of what this alternate "real" world is like, and mix well.It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Its been a while since I read the first novel, and like when I read the first novel, it took me a while to get used to Park's dream-like style and characterizations. You really have to pay attention to the prose, and go with it, and even then, things aren't always crystal clear. And I am pretty sure its a feature, not a bug.I certainly would never start the series with this book. But those who liked the first novel should and will likely enjoy the second.
This book continues the tale begun in A Princess of Roumania in which a young woman named Miranda Popescu learned she was hidden away in our world but is a princess caught amidst political intrigue in an alternate *real* world where Roumania is one of the world's superpowers and is busy fighting off the advances from Germany in a Victorianesque era. The goings-on get even stranger in this second book (of a quartet) and we follow the exploits of Miranda and her friends Peter and Andromeda. Peter is actually a renowned soldier named Pieter de Graz and Andromeda is really a (male) soldier named Sasha Prochenko. But in this story she morphs from a dog to a young woman. Miranda also ventures into the hidden world while conjurers like the Baroness Ceausescu and the Elector of Ratisbon put their own plots into play. It sometimes gets confusing only to clear up later and I enjoyed the real sense of strangeness in this story. It's always interesting and I'll be reading the follow-up soon. It's called The White Tyger.
Not all alternate history is of the classic mold. You know the drill. Lee wins at Gettysburg, and the world is different because of it. Varus' legions aren't slaughtered by the Germanic tribes, and Rome continues on and on. The Spanish armada conquers England, and Shakespeare turns out to be a hero to the oppressed English. The Roumania novels are definitely different. The first novel, a Princess of Roumania, started ordinarily enough, with Andromeda, Peter and Miranda slowly discovering that their modern day New England world was in fact, an illusion, an artiface. The real world is very different, where Roumania is a major power with magic at its command, and a vicious conflict between Germany and Roumania only part of the complicated politics. The second novel takes up from the first and continues the stories of Miranda, Andromeda and Peter as they start to learn their real identities, and their destinies, in Roumania. Throw in one of the most complex and multi-sided antagonists I've read in fantasy, the Baroness Ceaucescu, a slow reveal of more of what this alternate "real" world is like, and mix well. It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Its been a while since I read the first novel, and like when I read the first novel, it took me a while to get used to Park's dream-like style and characterizations. You really have to pay attention to the prose, and go with it, and even then, things aren't always crystal clear. And I am pretty sure its a feature, not a bug. I certainly would never start the series with this book. But those who liked the first novel should and will likely enjoy the second.
In Great Roumania, sorceress Aegypta hid her niece Miranda Popescu on an alternate plane in a place called Massachusetts to keep her safe from rival factions loyal to Baroness Nicola Ceausescu. Aegypta and Nicola know that young Miranda is the prophesized ¿White Tyger¿ who is expected to save their people from the German onslaught. However, with Miranda vanished, Nicola claims she is the White Tyger even as she searches for the youngster to eliminate the potential threat. However, Nicola finally ¿finds¿ her rival and soon the teen is whisked back to her home realm accompanied by her best friends Peter and Andromeda who join her quest whereas Peter transforms into de Graz, Andromeda shape-shifts into a canine. However the malevolent Baroness composing her opera THE TOURMALINE and the apprehensive German Elector seek her out to destroy the upstart who is guided by the spirit of her Aunt Aegypta's ghost. --- The sequel to the delightful A PRINCESS OF ROUMANIA is a fabulous alternate history fantasy that uses a different realm where magic, the paranormal and the supernatural exist and Africa is the superpower. The fast-paced story line is driven by the rivals with the heroine coming of age as she learns her only hope of winning and surviving reside in learning to use magic while her adversary wants her dead. Though perspectives can become difficult to follow as the four key support cast and several tertiary characters play major roles, fans will enjoy this coming of age middle tale with a confrontation to go. --- Harriet Klausner