Author: Garth Nix
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Release Date: May 2012 (expected)
Summary: You’d think being a privileged Prince in a vast intergalactic Empire would be about as good as it gets. But it isn’t as great as it sounds. For one thing, Princes are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Khemri discovers that the moment he is proclaimed a Prince. He also discovers mysteries within the hidden workings of the Empire. Dispatched on a secret mission, Khemri comes across the ruins of a space battle. In the midst of it all he meets a young woman named Raine, who will challenge his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.
☆: 4/5 – a fantastic new look at biopunk, gender, and our universe!
Review: This one was a really fun read. I can see the potential for a series within it, but I’m just as glad that it’s a standalone. “A Confusion of Princes” is a crazy ride through a crazier universe, complete with biogenetically enhanced “Princes” – “higher” beings within the Intergalactic Empire (far, far in our future) that basically help to rule over the whole universe. But what goes into making a Prince and being a Prince, the differences between what you’re told to do, what you’re expected to do, and what the reality of what you’re doing all come into play, making for quite the juicy story to sink your teeth into. If you want a biopunk story that’s YA friendly, “A Confusion of Princes” is the book for you.
What I love about this book the most is the narrative/POV – and the fact that Khemri might be an unreliable narrator (though I won’t say why or how) is quietly brought up a few times throughout the book. His perception of what he does, compared to what he’s really doing as well as what he was told he was doing as a Prince gets messed with a lot during the course of the story, from his second “birth” as a real Prince, to his third death and beyond. And the best part? Princes can be male or female – there is no “Princess”, but there are both male and female Princes. And the Emperor has a whole new pronoun to use when referring to it – hier – a mix of “his” and “her”. I love it when authors play with the concept of gender in any kind of story in any kind of genre, and Nix does a really good job with using his characters to make us question our ideas of gender in our current time. Though honestly, I did want more information on the female Princes – I think that would have really improved the book to over-the-top awesome. However, with what little we do get to see in terms of Prince Atalin and her misadventures, I can say I’m satisfied, though I’m dying to know more.
Khemri’s POV is also very detailed, but never lags or gets stuck in one particular place. The pace is smooth, quick, but still allows the reader to sink themselves into a very strange new world with the idea that humans are not the end-all highest beings in the universe. The effort put into the worldbuilding really shows – we go to a lot of different places with Khemri throughout his three lives in the story, from his initial birth as a human (or humanoid), through his rebirth as a “Prince”, through his training as a Prince and onward, we go all over the place. However, we never end up on Earth, which was actually kind of gratifying as I wanted to see all of the worlds that Nix could build aside from what Earth might look like at that point in our future.
All of our characters are also very well constructed, but there’s also some mystery to a few that opens the door for a series, a spin-off, etc. We get left with a few questions at the end, but at the same time, the end is satisfying enough that I’m fine with it being a standalone. Not all of the potential that was there was used, but sometimes those are the best kind of books – the ones that keep you wondering after you’re done with them, allowing you to wallow in the world that has been created for you. So overall, I was really happy with the way this one turned out.
Final verdict? This one is really fun if you’re into sci-fi, but if you’re not into sci-fi, it may not be your kind of book. I still recommend it as it’s worth the read. “A Confusion of Princes” will be out May 15th, 2012 from HarperTeen in North America, so be sure to check it out then!