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The Hidden World by Paul Park
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The Hidden World

by Paul Park

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Roumania (4)

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Right, then, the final volume in Park's quartet about Greater Roumania. Park has been compared to a lot of other writers over the course of these four books, but one other springs to mind: Michael Swanwick, specifically his anti-pastoral fairy tale, The Iron Dragon's Daughter. These stories share a common approach to fantasy in which they refuse to deliver or indulge in the traditional consolations of the fantasy genre. So when Miranda turns out to be a Princess in a magical world where she wields a terrifying magical power and has friends and allies and dangerous enemies, none of these things count as a blessing. Her home is destroyed, revealed as a magical illusion then ripped away, taking her adoptive parents with her. Her royal blood marks her out not as a figure of real power and influence but at best a ragged guerilla figurehead, or a political chess-piece in a morally and politically complex world in the throes of burgeoning modernity where royalty is rapidly becoming an empty symbol of the past.

Her powers work best in the Hidden World where she is the White Tyger, but even this is mostly the power to kill and destroy dispassionately, and as she realises herself, killing a few bad people here and there solves very few of the larger problems her country is confronted with. Her friends are altered and changed in profound and subtle ways. Her allies are powerless, superstitious gypsies or secretive, untrustworthy, jealous old women with ambiguous agendas. Her enemies include everyone powerful enough to damage or destroy her country. There is no clear path or plan for her to follow, no easy way to make things better and save her home or her friends. She makes many mistakes at terrible costs. This is not the rousing tale of a plucky modern princess rallying the peasants of a Ruritanian backwoods against an evil pretender to the throne.

In The Hidden World her mistake is to have the tourmaline stolen by the ghost of the mad baroness, stranding Miranda in the hidden world and allowing the baroness to possess bodies, including hers, in the real world. Dreadful, increasingly mechanised trench warfare rages on the border against the Turks and the Russians and a madman and murderer rules in Budapest. Is there anything she can do to save herself, her friends and her country? Answers do not come easy, and the ending is sad, lonely and uncertain, but concludes the quartet in a deeply satisfying manner. The four books mark a brave, thoughtful, beautiful addition to the fantasy canon and I recommend them unreservedly. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
The Hidden World concludes Paul Park's incredibly ambitious quartet with all the suspense of a high-wire act. Breaking apart genre convention like this requires genuine courage, and it's a delight to report that he succeeds, and then some.

Miranda is free from her imprisonment at the Baroness' hands, but the demons released into the world still roam free, and she's without her friends Peter and the man/woman/dog hybrid Andromeda. Can she - and her companions - resolve their fates, and the fate of Roumania?

The novel preceding this one, The White Tyger was the darkest entry in the series to that point, and I was concerned that Park would have difficulty resolving such a malevolent, chaotic narrative. The Hidden World gets even darker for a while, but the steady pace of the book - both what's happening to the protagonists, and what's happening to their world - ensures that it moves towards catharsis and resolution.

Once again, Park's greatest strengths lie in characterisation. Miranda, Peter and Sasha/Andromeda are wholly believable, sympathetic and likable. The journey has exacted terrible tolls on all three, and he isn't afraid to explicate that. There's no happily-ever-after, or even any smooth tie-ups to The Hidden World, really, and it's difficult to say if it ends any better than the entire series began for its protagonists and the beleaguered people of Roumania - which makes the satisfaction I felt at the end even more astonishing.

Indeed, the ambition - and accomplishments - of this novel and the quartet as a whole place it so far outside the YA spectrum, it's sad to think that so many who might enjoy it will pigeonhole the series based on its precis and cover art. The books display a fecund imagination and world-building that both fantasy and YA novels desperately need. Roumania is more than just a canvas for the narrative; the struggles of the people and the ambiguity of _all_ political processes is ever clear. Governing by elites is a fraught, and perhaps somewhat inevitable business, and it has its price in this world.

Underlying all this is the titular Hidden World, a Jungian spiritscape with animist creatures and a heavy, symbolic tone. Often, I find writers that generate these worlds in novels use them as an escape hatch for corners they've written themselves into. There's none of that here. The Hidden World is an internal landscape and such the problems of the external world are integral to its make up, and inescapable.

Do I sound like I'm raving? Perhaps I am. It's so unusual in either of these genres to find something truly unique, and a writer with the capability to carry it off. The Roumania Quartet received raves from critics but was chronically overlooked by the public. These books will stand up to the test of time, however, and I recommend them without reservation to anyone who might have a passing interest in the genres, and even to some without. ( )
1 vote patrickgarson | Sep 15, 2012 |
This is the fourth and final book in Park's Roumanian series, easily the oddest series I've read to date. (Could be the oddest story as well but then I recalled Santa Steps Out by Robert Devereaux and for sheer oddness, that one's tough to beat.) There are three main characters in the Roumanian series: Miranda, Andromeda, and Peter. And their trajectory through these books is hard to summarize. Let's just say that the tale involves: an alternate world; conjurers; magical items (including a gun housing six demons, some of which get loose); possesion; a character that changes from female to dog to male to various combinations of the aforementioned; the titular spirit world; and a war between Roumania and Turkey. That said, I enjoyed the journey although at times I found it confusing. I'd recommend it to anyone bored with the same old thing. Also, lots of writerly types give this series high praise including Ursula K. LeGuin and Gene Wolfe. ( )
  woodge | Nov 20, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Parkprimary authorall editionscalculated
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for Deborah, with love.
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Two hundred kilometers to the north and east of Bucharest, in a farmhouse in the village of Stanesti-Jui, Miranda lay asleep.
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Book description
Miranda, now knowing that she is both the Princess of Roumania and the White Tyger, still faces an uncertain future. With only her friends Peter and Andromeda to depend on, she must face war with Turkey and dangerous conflicts with the spirit world.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765316684, Hardcover)

The breathtaking climax to Paul Park’s lyrical and mesmerizing series. “Park…should be knighted.”--Entertainment Weekly

The Hidden World
is the concluding volume in Paul Park’s remarkable tale of Roumania, a world that is both more real and yet also more mysterious and magical than our own.

After finding out that she is the lost princess of Roumania and the mythical White Tyger, Miranda’s fate is still uncertain. The ghosts of her enemies cluster about her, the insane spirit of the Baroness takes possession of her body for a time, and demons released by her mother are abroad. And through it all her heart calls out to Peter, away with the army, whom she has come to love, and her best friend Andromeda, sworn to help her and protect her. There are no easy answers; it all looks impossible. Any hope may lie in the hidden world of spirits, where death is but an inconvenience.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"The Hidden World is the concluding volume in Paul Park's remarkable tale of Roumania, a world that is both more real and yet also more mysterious and magical than our own." "After discovering that she is the lost princess of Roumania and the mythical white tyger, Miranda finds that her fate is still uncertain. The ghosts of her enemies still cluster about her, the insane spirit of the Baroness takes possession of her body for a time, and demons released by her mother are abroad in Roumania. And through it all her heart calls out to Peter, away with the army, whom she has come to love, and her best friend, Andromeda, sworn to help her and protect her. There are no easy answers; it all looks impossible. Any answers may lie only in the hidden world of spirits, where death is but an inconvenience, and she is the most powerful creature of all, the white tyger."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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