A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

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A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Perhaps not Nix's best, as the plotting is very linear and mediocre, but his creation of an old-fashioned sci-fi universe for a young audience is still of note.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 342 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 9780007298358

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Meet Khemri. One of the universe's chosen, he has been selected as a Prince, giving him biological enhancements, mental connection to priests to aid his psychic ability, and so much more. It has also probably led to the death of his parents, and meant he is alone except for a very close bodyguard, but - at least he is in the running to become Emperor, and thus almost godlike. But in a world where you can have everything - including more than one chance at living - it might still be wise to think more about what you wish for...

I'm glad Garth Nix has offered us a stand-alone read, for it gives me a chance to examine his output with less commitment than to a series. But the flipside to that here is that this was a novel designed to fit into the universe of a Facebook game, and a basic google search says this was due in 2009... 'Hmmm', I'm thinking.

And a lot of this reads like a game-based (or at least a game-aware) book. Khemri spends a lot of his time in military training, as befits a Prince facing up to 'You Might Be Powerful But No Way Can You Live As You Would Wish 101'. As a result you see him tally up his demerits due to his maverick side, as well as his ambitions to get more ammo; and he quite blatantly powers up and levels up with more priests and weapons here and there. When he is advised to establish more relay points to the Imperial Mind you see 'points' as having a blatant double-meaning. Later, there's a chess-like minigame for him to play to gain shelter in one pickle.

But don't get me wrong, I like the fictional creativity involved in gaming, and have no problems with cross-media pollination of ideas, tropes and talent. Also, this is not at all a fictionalised account of a player's game career, nor a prologue. It is simply set in the same universe, and both seem very independent. There are still flaws here in that too much of this is a linear progression for Khemri, much as the game would entail, however well-disguised with setbacks, boss battles and fast-forwarded boring bits of his life.

Still, the pacing is evidently Nix's forte, and nothing at all outstays its welcome. Eventually we do get to the real nitty-gritty of the universe, the moral for Khemri and for us, and we conclude very satisfactorily. Throughout, Nix has clearly been concentrating on bringing old-school space opera sci-fi to a Facebook audience, and his creation of his world, with a psychic hive mind, battling Princes and the way everything is built and controlled on a balance of biotechnology, engineering and psychic elements, means he really has put a strong stamp on his creation. His stylistic approaches to some aspects, and the fact this is for too much of its length very uni-directional means this is definitely a teen sci-fi book first and a sci-fi book a distant second, but there is still enough fresh and strongly written to mean it deserves your attention.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For sci-fi for this audience set closer to home, and more successfully appealing to all ages, we recommend The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Buy A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix at Amazon.com.


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