Sequel to A Princess of Roumania (not reviewed), Park’s weighty alternate-world fantasy, with at least one more promised volume to come.
The backdrop—and it's some backdrop: In a world of magic, Roumania rules an empire, and Africa is the most advanced continent. Roumanian princess Miranda Popescu has been exiled to America, a savage wilderness prowled by mad refugees from earthquake-destroyed western Europe. Back in Roumania, Baroness Nicola Ceausescu thinks of herself as the white tyger, a heroine destined to liberate the empire from German occupation; she’s a powerful conjurer and carries the magic jewel of the title, a huge stone found in the brain of Johannes Kepler. Her bitter adversary, the Elector of Ratisbon, defends German interests with wizardry and force. While Miranda finds herself back in Roumania, having mysteriously aged five years in an instant, her friends Peter and Andromeda remain in America. Peter, who lacked a right hand, now finds he has acquired a large and strong one; Andromeda, meanwhile, has turned into a dog. (Readers previously acquainted with Park's work will grasp that all this isn’t the half of it.) Peter and Andromeda pass through an eerie tunnel back to Europe, where they emerge five years older; Peter turns into legendary Roumanian soldier Pieter de Graz, who’s sworn to protect Miranda; Andromeda can shift at will between human and dog, and also has the memories of Roumanian soldier Sasha Prochenko. As the Baroness composes an opera, The Tourmaline, the Elector ponders Miranda’s whereabouts; Miranda herself reluctantly asks her aunt Aegypta’s ghost for help, quells a vampire and realizes that she cannot defeat her adversaries by force or persuasion; instead, she must work through the hidden world of magic.
With a point of view that veers abruptly, sometimes in mid-sentence: equal parts disconcerting, fascinating and indecipherable.