A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix is one of my favorite fantasy novels. So when I found out that Garth Nix has a standalone sci-fi YA novel due to be released this year, I was immediately curious. I grabbed a copy of this when I saw the UK edition in a bookstore in Hong Kong. In his website, Garth Nix mentions that he doesn’t have time to answer all of the emails that he gets but that you can get a postcard from him if you send him an email asking for one. Right after reading the Abhorsen trilogy, I loved it so much that I sent him an email, asking for a postcard and yay, I got one. This is what it looks like:

Here’s the summary of A Confusion of Princes from Goodreads:

A Confusion of Princes by Garth NixYou’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.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you’re aware that I’m not much of a sci-fi reader. I only pick up sci-fi titles when they come highly recommended (like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold and Grimspace by Ann Aguirre) or when it’s written by a favorite author – like A Confusion of Princes. So it’s probably not surprising that I had a hard time getting into the first half of A Confusion of Princes. I really don’t know if it’s because I’m not as familiar with the genre or there was too much information at the start of the book. In any case, I was starting to feel bad that I wasn’t as into reading this book as I expected when the pacing suddenly picked up (or I’d become familiar with the terms by then so I didn’t find it confusing anymore). At the start of the novel, Khem was arrogant and clueless but that’s mostly caused by how he was brought up as a Prince of a powerful Empire. There are millions of Princes in the Empire and they’re brought up to be the leaders in their society. I found that kind of set-up intriguing. What’s also interesting is that Princes are constantly fighting one another, knowing that the next Emperor will be chosen from their ranks. Even though he was kind of annoying at first, I liked Khem’s character. He’s an intelligent person and learns to adapt and change his ways when he begins to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around him. I also liked his sense of humor and it was fun to see things from his point of view.

If the first few chapters were slow, the latter ones were really fast-paced – so much so that I felt like some parts of the novel weren’t developed as fully as I’d like. Sure, it made me happy that there’s romance in the novel but I wasn’t really invested in it because everything felt rushed. Khem meets the girl and then BAM, he starts caring for her immediately while he’s still in the process of learning what’s it like to be a normal human being who has feelings. He also goes through a huge transformation in the second half of the book and I had a hard time believing that something like that could happen so fast. Like I said, I liked Khem’s character but I did have problems with the pacing of A Confusion of Princes. Maybe there could have been a balance between how slow the first part is and how fast the last part is? Again, I’m not even sure if I had problems with this because it’s sci-fi instead of my usual fantasy or contemporary reads. As always, I still think you should give this a try if you feel like it’s something that you’d like. Recommended for sci-fi readers and Garth Nix fans. However, if it’s your first time to read a Garth Nix novel, I suggest that you start with Sabriel instead of this one.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Readventurer

21 thoughts on “A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

    • Charlotte, glad you agree with me! I agree that the premise was really interesting but it wasn’t executed as well as I’d like. Are you planning to write a review of this?

    • Holly, well I finished reading Unspoken and really liked it so there’s that. 😛 And I just started I Capture the Castle and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll love it.

  1. I was really excited for this one, but this is the second review I’ve seen where people who have read Nix before (and liked the Abhorsen series) seem a bit disappointed in this one. So I’m wary. I’ll probably read it but I feel less like running out to get it though.

    • I’ve read his Abhorsen series but I haven’t read the Keys to the Kingdom series. I’m not even sure how many books are included in that? Hmm a Garth Nix-readalong is a good idea although I’m not sure if I can commit to something like that right now. 😛

  2. Truth be told, it was the worldbuilding that really kept me reading. The combination of Mektek, Bitek and Psitek is wonderfully intriguing – how an empire could get to the point where all three are valued, and used, and used in conjunction is fascinating. The idea of the Empire itself was … interesting, and intriguing even, but there wasn’t quite enough background or explanation to satisfy me. There is some explanation of what it means to be Emperor by the end of the story, but still not really anything about why it is an empire that rules this sprawling, mostly-human conglomeration of planets; nor why or how it was decided that Princes ought to be sought from the general population. I really liked this aspect, but it still was confusing about why it was there in the first place, if not simply as a narrative device.

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