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A Confusion of Princes: A Review

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“I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.

“This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.”

Chosen as a baby to be molded into a Prince of the Empire, Khemri has always had a wealth of luxuries at his fingertips. Raised in his own temple with an assortment of priests, servants, and even mind-programmed companions, Khemri’s early life as a initiate Prince is everything he would expect or want.

Unfortunately on the day Khemri becomes a proper Prince he also realizes everything he previously knew about Princes and the Empire is completely wrong.

As a Prince, Khemri is smarter, faster and stronger than regular humans.  Truly he is superior in every way. The only problem? So are the thousands of other Princes scattered throughout the Empire. Worse: All of those Princes are competing for a chance to become the next Emperor and most of them have no qualms about killing the competition during duels or through assassinations.

The more time Khemri spends as a Prince of the Empire the more he understands that the Empire can be a cruel, unsatisfying place. Being a Prince is all Khemri knows and all he has ever wanted. Until he dares to imagine having something more, even if Khemri isn’t sure he will ever have the chance to choose a different life in A Confusion of Princes (2012) by Garth Nix.

A Confusion of Princes is a standalone Space Opera. It is also Nix’s first book for older readers since his widely acclaimed Abhorsen trilogy.

Part of what marks Nix as an incredibly talented author is his richly detailed settings and well-realized characters. A Confusion of Princes is no exception with Khemri’s story playing out not just on an entirely new world but in an entirely new galaxy. The worlds Nix created here are so compelling that A Confusion of Princes even inspired its own online game: Imperial Galaxy.

The downside to creating such a rich setting is that it often makes for very dense writing. This book starts off with full throttled action and very little time for background. With so many facets to being a Prince, readers have almost as much to absorb as Khemri himself throughout the novel.*

Filled with minute details about the galaxy and Khemri’s life as a Prince, A Confusion of Princes sometimes skips over opportunities to develop the plot in favor of developing the world as Khemri alternates between running around and standing still with very little introspection or enlightenment until the last third of the novel.

Though Nix has undoubtedly created a fine addition to the science fiction genre, A Confusion of Princes does not stand up well compared to Nix’s other fantasy novels which combined expert world building with a depth that is lacking in the characters here.

*Other aspects of life in the Empire are painfully unexplained. A keystone of the Empire seems to be the use of mind-programmed servants and slaves but Nix never delves into the mechanics of this or the ethical implications. Though much of the story focuses on Khemri’s shift in thinking more as a human and less as a Prince, this plot thread remains unexplored or explained.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Farscape (television series), Highlander (television series)

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