A Confusion of Princes, Young Adult Science Fiction by Garth Nix
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A compelling premise that was generally executed well, if dragged down by poor aesthetic choices. Although I didn’t read Sabriel until relatively recently (a few years ago), I did grow up with the osmosis understanding that it was an amazing book and anyone who likes Fantasy should read it and fall in love accordingly. Garth Nix is that good, but this particular book didn’t impress me.
Khemri is a Prince of the Empire, which is basically the end all, be all of the galaxy if not universe. However, Princes themselves are all but a dime a dozen, with ten million of them in circulation. All Princes are born on one of any Imperial planet, selected and taken from their parents, and then subjected to decades of augmentation and training. Their parents are either killed or mind-wiped and allowed to return to their lives.
Khemri’s character arc is a little obvious, but quite fun in spite of it. He starts out arrogant and ignorant of even his own place in the big picture. There’s a lot of guidance pushing him towards a goal, and he does improve as a person beyond the intention of that guidance. He goes from arrogant and ignorant to compassionate and canny. At first, his ignorance is eyebrow-raising. There’s not really a good reason for him to be so mis/uninformed. But it’s done to make him a more effective audience proxy, so I suppose it’s not necessarily a flaw.
A lot of the things that make him grow as a character are either forced upon him, or the result of bad luck. He doesn’t take initiative until, surprise, a relationship with another character compels him to do so. Khemri doesn’t really act on his own until at least the last third, if not later. Still, that’s kind of the point. So again, not necessarily a flaw.
There’s a subplot with one of the other Princes that doesn’t get a lot of attention except at very key points and I could have done without it. I confess I hated all of the names but Raine and Alice, thanks to there being a “spacey” theme of putting Zs and Ks and consonant+h combinations EVERYWHERE. It was just distracting.
Even so, Garth Nix is always worth at least a look in, and if you’re looking for a book with cool tech, a logical and well-imagined world, and a character for whom you can cheer, this is a good one.