Newengland's Reviews > A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
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May 05, 12

bookshelves: ya, finished-in-2012
Read from April 29 to May 05, 2012

Standard sci-fi fare here, A CONFUSION OF PRINCES should satisfy most young readers who like to read about futuristic worlds with interplanetary travel and warfare. In this case, the prolific Garth Nix mixes in thousands of (superpower-enabled) princes competing to some day become the Emperor. At first I thought (hoped?) that this might echo Roger Zelazney's classic NINE PRINCES IN AMBER, but few of the princes are fleshed out here as much as our protagonist, the 18-year-old-ish Prince Khemri.

What sets Khemri apart is the way he thinks. His weakness? He often thinks like a human. But princes are, after all, arrogant, and he lives down to that description quite nicely. It is only after he is forced to pass a series of tests (most brief and not terribly suspenseful) that his human weakness comes more into play. As you might suspect, the reason is a young and beautiful woman who lives on some Emperor-forsaken outpost of the universe where Khemri's trials take him.

Thus, we have the old Hercules formula (the adventure of the hero) where Khemri must meet and master one challenge after another. He is also provided what Joseph Campbell would call a "supernatural aid" in the form of his assigned Master of Assassins, the programmed Haddad (who's always got his "logi-Spock" on).

The use of "princes" and "Emperor" gives this a fantasy-like nod to history, but it's sci-fi all right, complete with a gross of new words like bitek, psitek, and mektek. Couple that with all of the oddly-named princes, priests, and planets, and you might shout, "My kingdom for a glossary!" Also, while the characterization is decent, with Khemri slowly getting in touch with his "inner human," the plot takes a while to build. It gets there, though, and the momentum finally starts to grab the reader about halfway into the book. Just don't look for a fast start out of the launch pad.

Overall, most young readers should take to the adventure. For me, there was one lamentable scene straight out of THE HUNGER GAMES, but annoyances like that often please young fans and both publishers and authors know this. Despite that, this novel is more than serviceable and will intrigue readers who like to live in new worlds where new rules are in play. In that sense, sci-fi almost always delivers.
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05/03/2012 page 148
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Newengland I was waiting for the varitek, but that's just the Boston in me.


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