A galaxy full of princes
KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — It’s no fun being a prince when you find you’re just one of 10 million others... who would all like you dead. That’s the premise for Garth Nix’s fantasy novel “Confusion of Princes”, a sci-fi novel targeted towards the Young Adults crowd but makes fine adult reading too if you like good writing. And this is good writing; good sci-fi writing to be precise.
The novel’s protagonist Prince Khemri thinks his ascension to full prince status means he can finally achieve the life of adventure and luxurious pomp he thought his 16 years of training would prepare him for.
He thought wrong as he finds himself battling for survival at every turn, questioning the loyalties of those around him and realising that he really isn’t prepared at all.
In some ways, the book follows the typical “hero’s journey to self-discovery” found in many coming-of-age fantasy books. But what makes Confusion worth the read is the pacing and Nix’s willingness to keep the adventure going.
It’s a space opera that keeps you turning the page, wondering who or what poor Khemri will come across next. Duels. Check. Gruelling “hero gets trained by mentor into killing machine”? Check. Pirates? Check. Assassination attempts? Too many to count. Throw in a dash of humour and a smattering of romance, and you have a book that’s hard to put down for long.
Despite all the near-misses and hair-raising escapades Khemri gets into, Nix doesn’t forget to temper the action with good character building.
Khemri starts off pompous and obnoxious but his inner narrative, while slightly grating in the beginning, matures with him. As he leaves his fantasies behind to confront the realities of life and the choices he must make, Khemri grows into a character you do end up caring about.
You do wish there was more time or space in the book to address the secondary characters he encounters, like his enigmatic seneschal of sorts.
One of the things that I like most about Nix’s writing is its fluidity and clarity, even as he sprinkles technobabble here and there. He doesn’t get caught in the common sci-fi trap of being too obsessed with the tech to the detriment of character and plot. Another winner by Nix and one his fans will surely appreciate.
If you haven’t read anything of Nix’s as yet, I’d recommend you start with the New York Times bestselling Old Kingdom series, easily available at any local bookstore.
“Confusion of Princes” should be available mid-April at a bookstore near you, though you can also preorder it at Kinokuniya. Impatient? You can buy the ebook version (bought for the purpose of this review) on the Kobo bookstore. Buy the Australian or New Zealand edition and you’ll get a bonus story: “Master Haddad’s Holiday”.