Book Review: A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

Taken from his parents as a child and equipped with biological and technological improvements, Khemri is now an enhanced human being, trained and prepared for the glory of becoming a Prince of the Empire. Not to mention the ultimate glory: 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 ten million princes, and all of them want each other dead.

“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. My name is Khemri”

Garth Nix plunges you straight into this sweeping space opera, set in a vast galaxy governed by the mysterious Imperial Mind.

Khemri is quite a fascinating protagonist, he is pretty difficult to connect with in the early stages of the book, being a biologically enhanced super-human with little in the way of emotional depth and much more in the way of arrogance and self-entitlement, which, of course, is exactly how he’s been made. The world of a Prince is full of training, teachers and mind-programmed servants, and above all of that, constant peril in the galaxy-wide battle for the position of next Emperor. Watching Khemri make mistakes and impulsive decisions in his first year in the Naval Academy gives you the first glimpse of the young man underneath the Princely exterior.

So when he is offered a chance to “test” for a lucrative position in the Empire, where he will be cast out into the galaxy and must live on his own, essentially as a human, it’s not surprising that Khemri accepts the challenge. In an interesting twist on the classic coming-of-age story Khemri learns the difference between being human and having real relationships and being forever connected to the Imperial Mind.

My only complaint is it is a little too short and could have used another 150 pages or so. Fast-paced and packed with plenty of action, a well-crafted world coupled with Nix’s superb story-telling makes this a compelling read.

Rating: ★★★★☆

With thanks to Garth Nix for sending me a copy via Goodreads