22 September 2008

Writing on Reading: A Princess of Roumania

Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania got a lot of critical acclaim when it came out a couple years ago, and I can see why. It's certainly different that most fantasy novels out there, taking lots of tropes and turning them on their head. Park creates a unique world with memorable characters. I really enjoyed the way he spent time developing one of antagonists. When "evil" POV characters try to justify their own actions in believable and non-traditional ways--and even experience regret, denial, and self-doubt--that's good stuff. Park also does some interesting things with magic. The scope and nature of magic is never completely explained, but it works in this case. An aura of mystery and confusion that surrounds magic seems realistic, leaving us with the feeling that we might have if we directly experienced magic ourselves. One other positive is that the book contains a twist I never saw coming, which is always fun.

All of the above makes Princess worth reading, but I don't think I put it my list of top fantasy novels. Although I enjoyed and was interested in the characters, I never connected with them enough to feel truly absorbed in the book. I think this was in part because of Park's use of multiple POVs throughout the book. Just as I felt myself pulling more for one character, Park would switch POV on me, drawing me away. The other flaw for me was that the plot didn't move quite quickly enough. It seemed like Park kept giving the reader a promise that great things were about to happen, but then he under-delivered. The book ended with a definable climax, but not enough of one for my taste.

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