Review Blog

May 08 2012

A confusion of princes by Garth Nix

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Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781 74375 861 0
(Ages: 10+) Recommended. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Prince Khemri is born to rule. The Empire chose him when he was an infant and removed him from his parents to be enhanced, indulged and kept in isolation and ignorance of the truth of the politics of the Empire. Though he didn't know it at first Khemri is one of millions of princes all jostling for power and position.
The Empire is an unequal world. Scientific advances have made them the leaders in 'Mektek', 'Bitek' and 'Psitek'. Although some of their rivals have some of these advancements the Empire seems to be the only civilisation with all the advanced technologies. Princes are enhanced. Their minds are developed with educational and developmental programming and their DNA is changed and improved and even their bones and muscles tweaked to strengthen and quicken reflexes.
Khemri's life changes dramatically when he is 17 and he is brought into contact with the real world, to take his place as a prince of the Empire. It's not quite as he has imagined it! Not only does he not take command of anything immediately there are other princes trying to assassinate him. Fortunately his Master of Assassins is experienced and skilled and is able to bring him safely to his investiture.
Life in the Empire seems at first to be chaotic but as time unfolds and Khemri's options are given he comes to realise that all is mapped out and little is left to chance. He joins the Navy and from then is given a series of tests and finds he really has but one path to follow: that given by the Empire or failure and death.
His greatest test comes when he is dropped into a world where he is stripped of his princely assets of both mind and body. He no longer has the strength, agility, sight and mind control he has been used to and it also seems that he has also begun to feel emotions of ordinary humans. He begins to wonder if the life of a prince is really the life he wants for himself. Khemri also begins to have doubts about the political correctness of the Empire and the Emperor, even though he has been selected as a candidate to become Emperor.
Garth Nix has created a world where a huge central government has control through its creation of princes. The populations of many of the dominated worlds are unaware, as are perhaps many of the princes themselves of how manipulated they all are, and how expendable. A parable on our world at the moment? Where the subtleties of information control and flow are in the hands of a few?
For trailers and an interview with the author, go to Allen and Unwin's website .
Mark Knight

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