By Nisha Gopalan
Updated August 03, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

A princess? Sorcery? Eastern Europe? A Princess of Roumania‘s textbook-fantasy setup seems almost as hopeless as the predicament of its heroine — a teen plucked from suburbia, deposited in an alternate reality where she’s European royalty, hunted down by shifty agents preventing her from saving her clan, and…well, you get the picture. But here’s the real plot twist: This trite conceit actually yields a smart political drama — one laced with paranoia-inducing saboteurs and riddling apparitions — that jumps between a handful of intertwining stories to gripping if occasionally confusing effect. It’s a journey almost as gratifying as the magic trick pulled off by author Paul Park, who should be knighted for breathing life into an oft-tired genre.