I was dubious about the “YA” designation for the first book of Paul Park’s Roumania series–a label not asserted by either the author or the publisher as far as I can tell. This second volume demonstrates that it just doesn’t apply. The story is a decidedly mature fantasy, even if it includes some youngish characters. I don’t know if it makes much of a difference now that there is a significant reading demographic of “old adults” who prefer “YA” books, but since I’m not one of those, I figured I might question the label.
It took me over a year to get to this second volume after reading A Princess of Roumania, but the narrative was able to bring me back into the plot efficiently enough, and my slight fuzziness on what had gone before actually kept me sympathetic to the main characters whose perspectives were stressed and transformed over the course of the story.
In The Tourmaline there is a considerable development of definition and detail for the alternate-historical aspects of the Roumanian world. Africa is more technologically advanced than Europe. Christianity, such as it is, seems to be a hero cult within a persistent Roman paganism. This book also provides more clarity on the properties and powers of “the hidden world” that is the basis of its supernatural magic.
The end of this book is the mid-point of the four-volume series, and it resolves in a peculiar way, seeming to present the defeat of the principal villains, without corresponding triumph for the heroes. I’ll be taking a breather before The White Tyger, but hopefully not for as long as I let pass between the first two books.