A Confusion of Princes
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Advance Reader’s Copy
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 15, 2012)
What makes Garth Nix’s Space Opera A Confusion of Princes unique? How about a Young- Adult-Epic-Space-Opera-Fantasy with a very interesting and creative opening sequence in which the main character and his body guard space-surf on a Biotek Manta, almost get assassinated twice, link to the Imperial Mind to acquire information to become reborn, and join the Royal Navy because they’re the guild least likely to get them killed travelling to the recruiting center? Add to the narrative a Master of Assassins body-guard/baby-sitter, an Imperial A.I. sentient hive-brain, reincarnation (rebirth of a sort), Bitek, Psitek and Mektek (you should be able to figure them out by their names), insect warriors, strange new worlds, and galaxy building more ambitious than those of Asimov’s Foundation and you begin to see a few of the distinctive ideas that make A Confusion of Princes stand out.
There’s a lot to like about this story and here are my reasons (if the ones above are not enough): First, I’m not sure exactly how this happened but during my initial research of the book I got the impression that it was a YA Fantasy. (I think maybe from Amazon Vine or from the fact that Nix’s body of work was primarily fantasy.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was and it wasn’t. That it was a major space opera epic became clear very early on, yet the story retained subtle elements that usually are associated with fantasy. Princes, and concubines, and Master Assassins, and reincarnation and rebirth… all these things speak more of a tale from Arabian Nights than a galaxy-crossing space opera. Nix somehow manages to blend them together successfully and, more importantly, entertainingly.
An empire with a million worlds is ruled by a class of prince’s numbering in the millions. These princes, young men and women, are programmed from birth to rule the Empire. Linked to a sentient A.I. computer they can be reincarnated over and over again but not when they’re in normal human form and Khemri, after dying defending a space station from hostile aliens, is offered the extraordinary mission of becoming an “Adjuster.” But, the first element an Adjuster must learn is to live as a normal human, susceptible to permanent death. Newly reborn, Khemri, now known as Khem, meets and falls in love with a normal human and his world is turned upside down. As his destiny in the Empire draws near he must decide what he truly desires – power as a ruling Prince or the love of a woman?
Recommended for fans of Space Opera, coming of age stories, high Science-Fiction, unique Young Adult books, YA romance, and action and intrigue junkies.
File with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, David Brin’s Uplift War series, Catherine L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series (which is ironic in a way since this is a YA book and I recommend/file it with Old Man’s War.)
4 out of 5 stars
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