Book: A Confusion of Princes Review

“A Confusion of Princes…? Well, not so much!”

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Age: YA+

Released: 17th May 2012 (UK version)

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A grand adventure that spans galaxies and lifetimes, A Confusion of Princes is also a page-turning action adventure. These are the three deaths of Prince Khemri. Told in his own words, we follow him as he trains to become a Prince of the Empire, an enhanced human being, equipped with biological and technological improvements that make him faster, stronger and smarter than any ordinary person. Not to mention the ultimate benefit: should he die, and be deemed worthy, he will be reborn! Which is just as well, because no sooner has Prince Khemri graduated to full Princehood than he learns the terrible truth behind the Empire: there are a million princes, and all of them want each other dead, because there can only be one Emperor!

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A confusion..

I’d been looking forward to this book for a while now. Garth Nix is one of my favourite authors, this is the first book he’s written for older readers since The Old Kingdom Trilogy, and it all seemed to be counting down to something really epic. However, after the first couple of chapters, I found that it wasn’t all I’d been led to believe.

This Sci-Fi book is set in space on various different planets and deals with multiple alien life forms and technology called “-teks”. The main form of authority in this world is the Empire, (brilliantly named!), that controls everyone through some kind of hub-centered telepathy. Everyone that is connected to the Imperial Mind, from the Princes to the Priests are all under it’s command and all must serve under it.

..of Princes

The Princes are beings that were once human, but have been enhanced to give them super-human strengths and powers. (With this strange title, it means that there are girl Princes too..) Prince Khemri, the lead character,  described very admirably in the blurb, is nothing like you’d imagine. He’s very capable physically, and good at surviving things that would kill humans. However, he’s spent all his life being pampered, and whines a lot. He has the imagination and planning of a bug, and needs constant help from his Priest entourage.When they are not there, we get more whining..

A confusion of Story..

On his 18th birthday, when he has to leave the temple where he was raised, he realises that there are other Princes out there that want to kill him so they can increase their chance of being the Emperor of this vast space-Empire. Now he must escape with his Priests and head-Assassin Haddad. This might seem really exciting, however, the majority of the book is spent inside Prince Khemri’s whiny head, in his ultimate journey for firstly to become Emperor, and then to find out what it means to be human.

The plot-point that links with the book title “A Confusion of Princes” refers to Prince Khemri escape from his temple and meeting a Prince along the way, who looks just like him… except he’s never seen that person before, and… she’s female! Princes don’t have family so who could she be! This is ultimately set on the back burner to Prince Khemri’s journey and doesn’t rear it’s head until much much later.

A confusion of Space..

The world is vast, well of course it is, it’s outer space! However, you’re set in a linear path, which Prince Khemri can rarely control never mind the reader. We’re always stuck being trapped in a tiny space-ship, or following other characters. Characters, apart from Prince Khemri, are mentioned briefly, and are never given enough meat in this world. It really feels like Prince Khemri is the ONLY person traveling across the universe and everyone has their seat set in stone, to the point where they can’t even go to the shops.

I knew from reading his previous The Old Kingdom Trilogy, that Garth Nix has a habit of “corridor writing”, in which the world expands only as the character moves forward, but still I’ve never felt outer-space to be so restrictive. In Prince Khemri’s path, although this is a wide-functioning Empire, he doesn’t come across any other people other than the ones he’s designated to meet, and it’s feels too lonely and controlled.

A disappointment..

The ending of the story totally undermines all that we’ve been told about characters, and there doesn’t seem to a satisfactory conclusion to them, even though Prince Khemri’s arc is closed. It left a lot of questions open, and just wasn’t satisfying from an advanced reader’s point of view. I felt myself wishing that I knew the end for other characters, and the ultimate task that Prince Khemri had been trying to achieve for most of the book.

It’s a long-winded story, with interesting mechanical detail, but a lot of huff-and-puff about a vacant person.

..of Princes

Yes I’d recommend it out of loyalty for Garth Nix, even though it wouldn’t interest most people and probably doesn’t deserve to. The writing style is consistent and the story, when not drastically swerving in conclusion, is interesting and good reading.

Rated  – 2/5 Good technically, however, plot-swerves, and an annoying character lets it down.

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