Book Review: A Confusion of Princes / Author: Garth Nix / Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books / Release Date: Out Now
A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix, is a solid, engrossing tale that while aimed for teenagers can be enjoyed by anybody, regardless of age.
In A Confusion of Princes we are introduced to Prince Khemri, stolen from his parents at birth to become a prince of the star-spanning Empire. Princes are the ruling class, but they are also superhuman by mere mortal standards. Stronger, smarter, and faster with all types of technological boosts, the Princes see themselves as godlike when compared to the human race. They even have the ability to transcend death and be reborn into new fully-grown bodies. Once trained by priests and linked to the Imperial Mind - a kind of thought activated internet - the Princes then set out to make their mark in the universe.
This also breeds – understandably so – a certain level of arrogance and our protagonist Khemri is no exception. Barely turned sixteen yet plans to command a luckless star-system and become something of a universal player surrounded by fawning courtesans dominate his thoughts.
But all is not as it seems in this young prince’s world. Shortly after being announced a prince and meeting his personal master of assassins, Khemri becomes the target of his own assassination and learns the hard way that the universe is a vastly different place than he had once believed. In reality, the princes are a devious, back-stabbing lot, constantly searching for ways to outclass and kill each other.
Khemri embarks on what he thinks is his quest to gain power, perhaps even make Emperor, but in truth he starts on a journey to discover his lost humanity.
Garth Nix has created a believable protagonist in the form of Prince Khemri, and his character arc is extremely entertaining. His arrogance and conceit for anything other than a prince lands him into endless amounts of trouble. Yet, as the character progresses just enough emotion is shown for the reader to identify with him, even root for Khemri as he learns what it means to be human.
Now if any of that sounds a little cliché, don’t worry, it is! But when handled right, even clichés can become engaging story points and Garth Nix is no stranger to a children’s novel, leading us through his world with a deft hand and expert care.
However, Confusion of Princes is let down by the fact that Khemri never manages to control the forces of antagonism laid out before him in any meaningful way. Not wishing to spoil the ending, of course. This leads in the later Act to a frustrating read while the reader waits for Khemri to finally take control of his life.
Even so, A Confusion of Princes remains a well-plotted, story driven novel and a fine addition to the science fiction genre as a whole.