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A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes

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A Confusion of Princes

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362 Seiten
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15. Mai 2012


Garth Nix, bestselling author of the Keys to the Kingdom series and Shade’s Children, combines space opera with a coming-of-age story in his YA novel A Confusion of Princes.
Superhuman. Immortal. Prince in a Galactic Empire. There has to be a catch….
Khemri learns the minute he becomes a Prince that princes need to be hard to kill—for they are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Every Prince wants to become Emperor and the surest way to do so is to kill, dishonor, or sideline any potential competitor. There are rules, but as Khemri discovers, rules can be bent and even broken.
There are also mysteries. Khemri is drawn into the hidden workings of the Empire and is dispatched on a secret mission. In the ruins of space battle, he meets a young woman, called Raine, who challenges his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself. But Khemri is a Prince, and even if he wanted to leave the Empire behind, there are forces there that have very definite plans for his future.

15. Mai 2012

Über den Autor

Garth Nix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. Garth’s many books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, beginning with Sabriel and continuing to Goldenhand; the sci-fi novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; the Regency romance with magic Newt’s Emerald; and novels for children including The Ragwitch, the Seventh Tower series, the Keys to the Kingdom series, and Frogkisser!, which is now in development as a feature film with Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios. Garth has written numerous short stories, some of which are collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge. He has also cowritten several children’s book series with Sean Williams, including TroubleTwisters and Have Sword, Will Travel. More than six million copies of his books have been sold around the world and his work has been translated into forty-two languages. You can find him online at

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A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix


I HAVE DIED THREE times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.

This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.

My name is Khemri, though this is not the name my parents gave me. I do not know who my parents are, and never will, for I was taken from them as a baby.

This is one of the secrets the Empire keeps well. No Prince may ever know his or her parents, or the world of their birth. Even trying to find out is forbidden, which just about sums up the paradox of being a Prince. We have vast power and seemingly limitless authority, except when we try to exercise that power or authority beyond the bounds that have been set for us.

It’s still about a million times better than being an ordinary Imperial subject, mind you. It just isn’t everything that I thought it was going to be when I was a child, a Prince candidate being carefully raised in considerable ignorance in my remote temple.

So I’m one of the ten million Princes who rule the Empire, the largest political entity in recorded history or current knowledge. The Empire extends across a vast swath of the galaxy, encompassing more than seventeen million systems, tens of millions of inhabited worlds, and trillions of sentient subjects, most of them humans of old Earth stock.

It is Imperial policy that all these mostly planet-bound yokel types know as little as possible about the apparently godlike beings who rule them. Even our enemies—the alien Sad-Eyes, the enigmatic Deaders, and the Naknuk rebels—know more of us than our own people.

The ordinary folk think we’re immortal. Which is natural enough when they typically have something like their grandfather’s grandfather’s grandmother’s nice commemorative stereosculpture of a good-looking young Prince on the family mantelpiece and then they see the same Prince handing out Grower of the Month awards at the annual harvest festival or whatever.

It would be the same Prince too, because while we’re not actually immortal, if we get killed we do mostly get reborn into an identical adult body. It’s a technical difference, I guess.

And it’s only mostly reborn. Our enemies know that we do not always come back from the dead. To have died three times like me is no big deal for a Prince of the Empire. There are others who have died nine, twelve, twenty times and still walk among our ranks. There are even Princely societies where you have to have died a certain number of times to join. Like the Nine Death Lifers. Bunch of idiots if you ask me. All suicidal for eight deaths and then supercautious afterward? Who’d want to join that society?

Particularly since you never know if you are going to be reborn. It’s up to the Emperor, and every now and then a dead Prince’s name just vanishes from the lists without explanation, and if you’re dumb enough to make inquiries, you meet a lot of blank-eyed priests who don’t know anything and a weird kind of absence of anything about that dead Prince if you directly ask the Imperial Mind.

But before I get into my whole life story and all, let me take you through the bare facts of my childhood. I am presuming you’re not an Imperial Prince, which you’d better not be or I’ll have wasted all the careful preparations that are supposed to make this record detonate with a ridiculously large antimatter explosion if it is accessed by any kind of Princely sensory augmentation.

I guess not recording it in the first place would be more secure. But I have my reasons.

So. I would have been close to a year old when I was taken from my parents. Though I have no recollection of my early life, it is likely that I was born on a typical Imperial world of the outer quadrants, a planet once marginal for human life but long since remade by the trinity of Imperial technology: the machines of Mektek, the biological agents and life-forms of Bitek, and the wide-ranging and powerful mental forces of Psitek.

This is important, because if there’s anything that makes the Empire what it has become, it is these three teks. Sure, the Sad-Eyes have better Psitek, but then we kick their parasitical little guts in with Mektek and Bitek. The Naknuks have taken Bitek further than we have, so we do them in with Psitek and Mektek. The Deaders . . . it’s a bit hard to know exactly what their primary tek is since they always blow themselves up when they’re beaten, but certainly the trinity of teks works against them as well.

All Imperial tek is managed and controlled by priests, who are divided into orders that worship different Aspects of the Emperor. They serve Princes in all technical roles, but it’s worth remembering that they also get orders directly from the Imperial Mind. Princes forget that sometimes, usually to their cost.

Okay, where was I? Getting taken from my parents. Here we go.

On a day like any other day, my parents would have had no knowledge that by nightfall their infant son would be gone forever.

The first sign would have been a gathering darkness, a vast shadow too sharp edged to be a cloud. Looking up, they would have seen an Imperial battleship glide across their sky, an enormous, jagged flying mountain of rock dotted with structures built to the fashions and whims of the Prince in command.

Under the shadow of the ship, bright spots of light would suddenly spark, thousands and thousands of them, that a moment later would fall like brilliant rain.

They would know then, I suppose, my parents of long ago. Imperial battleships do not drop thousands of mekbi troopers on rural villages without reason.

Sometimes I wonder what my parents did as the first wave of troopers descended, and the wasp-ships launched as well, spiraling down to establish a perimeter to make sure no one tried to evade the opportunity of giving their children to the Empire.

I suppose they did nothing, for nothing could be done. But unlike most other Princes, I know something about ordinary children. I have seen parents and their children together when they are not awed or terrified by the presence of a Prince. So I know that the bond between them is stronger than Princes—who have no parents and are not allowed to have children—can imagine. So perhaps they tried to escape, desperation driving them to flee or hide.

But with a perimeter established and search squads armed with advanced scanning tek, there could be no hope of evasion. My parents must have eventually joined the lines of people waiting for the troopers to check everyone against the census while the Priests of the Aspect of the Inquiring Intelligence mentally investigated any anomalies. Maybe there was a Sad-Eye infiltrator lurking inside a host body, or a Naknuk spy, or some small domestic criminal or terrorist, but these would be rare excitements. Mostly it would be routine.

Then, finally, at the head of the line, my parents would have met the Priests of the Aspect of the Weighty Decision Maker, priests with glittering eyes, blue fluid swirling behind the transparent panels in their shaven skulls, all attention focused on the approaching couple and their child.

The genetic testing would have taken only a few minutes, using Bitek viral assays and ultrascopic Psitek scan. Then the terrible news, presented as an opportunity for joy and delight in being able to serve the Empire.

Your child is accepted as a Prince candidate.

Sometimes I think about what it must have been like for my parents to hear those words. I also wonder what choice they made next, for the Empire in its great compassion does allow such parents one choice.

Not to keep the child, of course. The Empire needs Princes and so must take the candidates. But it does allow the parents some small mercy. They can be made to forget they ever had that child, their memories thoughtfully rearranged by the Priests of the Aspect of the Emperor’s Loving Heart, before they are physically relocated to another world to begin anew.

Or they can choose death. As with all Imperial justice, this is done on the spot. It would be fast, faster than they might expect. Mekbi troopers stand behind the parents when they state their choice. Accelerated muscles and monofilament blades act upon the mental command of the presiding Prince, and it is all over in a moment.

I do not think of my parents often, for there is no point. But I do have some reason to hope that they chose memory erasure and a new start, and that somewhere out among the far-flung stars they live still and have new children. Children who were not taken away to be made into Princes.

That is how I became a Prince candidate of the Empire and embarked on my candidacy, being shipped from temple to temple as each stage of my remaking was successfully completed.

For Princes are made, not born. The genetic testing is merely to see if we have the potential for all the meddling that is to come, and a reasonable probability of surviving it.

I don’t really remember the first decade of my candidacy. I only know what I was told about it later. For many years I was kept in a dream state, in a bath of Bitek gloop, my mind directly stimulated with educational and developmental programming, while viruses rewrote my DNA and changed and improved every part of my body.

Even after I was brought up into consciousness, I was often returned to the dream state in order to aid recovery from the surgeries that bonded Mektek enhancements to my bone and flesh.

Once my organic body met the requirements and the Mektek enhancement was done, I spent most of my time in the sometimes nightmarish mental space where I learned the particular Psitek capabilities reserved for Princes, the arts of domination and command, and the more ordinary techniques of mental communication, shielding, and so forth.

I’m not sure if you can call this a childhood, now that I think about it.

From the age of ten to seventeen, I was fully conscious, being taught more mundane things by various priests, and I played with holographic friends and the mind-programmed children of servants. It was always my games we played. From very early on, I knew I was a Prince, and very special, and in my own mind absolutely certain to rise even higher and become Emperor in time. Everything reinforced this, and in fact for some time I thought I was the only Prince in the whole galaxy, a willful misapprehension that persisted to some degree even after I had been taught that I was one of millions.

This was because even though I had been told of the existence of other Princes, I had not yet met any. Nor did I know when I was going to, until one day I awoke with the familiar mental voice of my tutor, Uncle Coleport, whispering in the back of my mind. (I called him Uncle because that is the mode of address for male priests. Female ones are called Aunt, but of course there is no familial relationship.)

:Prince Khemri. This is the day of your investiture, the sixteenth anniversary of your selection. Your Master of Assassins awaits an audience:

I opened my eyes and smiled. It was the first time in my life that I had been addressed not as Prince Candidate, but Prince. My remaking and training was complete. I would commandeer a sleek, deadly warship, probably a Verrent corvette or something similar, and go out into the Empire and immediately make my mark.

Or so I thought.

As I was dressed by my valet, a mind-programmed thrall, I reviewed what I knew about the investiture of a Prince, which was surprisingly little. The first step was to be assigned a personal court, and the most important member of that court was the Master of Assassins. He or she was directly assigned by the Imperial Mind and so could be entirely trusted. My Master of Assassins would help me select my other staff and vet them, an essential process. If a Prince could not depend upon their court, they would not long survive.

I met my Master of Assassins in one of the temple’s reception rooms, a chamber of pleasant waterfalls paying homage to a past Emperor’s love of water features. It was a favored spot for punishment details, and as was often the case, the sound of the falling water was being suppressed by the work of novices who stood in the pools up to their waists, blue pulsing in their temples as they flexed their Psitek strength. I had been there once when the rumble of a waterfall suddenly cut in, and I saw an unconscious novice float by and be sucked under where the flowing river met a bulkhead. The priests also undergo harsh training, sometimes with fatal results.

:My name is Haddad <>. I am sent by the <> to serve you, Prince Khemri:

Haddad was also a priest. All the assassins are priests of the Emperor in Hier Aspect of the Shadowed Blade. Unlike most of the other Aspects, assassins do not specialize in any one of the trinity of Imperial techs; they are generalists who use all techs in the service of their Prince.

:Greetings, Uncle Haddad. I accept you, and bind you to my service:

Good, Highness, said Haddad. Speak aloud. What weapons are you carrying?

None, I replied. I was surprised. We are in a temple—

"We are in a reception room of a temple, Highness, said Haddad. It is not covered by the general truce. Have the priests here trained you with Bitek weapons?"

No. . . .

Any weapons?

Sword and dagger, hand blaster, nerve-lash, the basics for dueling, I said. Haddad was looking around, moving about me, an ovoid instrument that I did not recognize in his hand. I presumed it was some kind of weapon.

For the first time in my life, I was becoming nervous, and already the euphoria of becoming a Prince was fading, to be replaced by an emotion that I had never really felt before and was slow to understand.


Slowly back away toward the inner door, Highness, said Haddad. He had stopped circling and was now intent on one of the waterfalls, watching the novice who stood there, supposedly shielding us from the noise of falling water.

I hesitated for a moment. Now that I was finally a Prince, I was reluctant to take any more orders from a priest. But there was something in Haddad’s voice, and after all, he was my Master of Assassins. . . . I started to retreat toward the inner door that led into the temple proper.

The novice in the closest waterfall moved. His hand came out from under a sodden robe, ready to throw a small silver box. But before it left his hand, Haddad fired his weapon. A blindingly bright bolt of energy shot across the chamber, shearing the novice in half.

Back! shouted Haddad as I stood watching in disbelief, still several feet from the door. His voice cut through even the sudden roar of the waterfall. Back!

The small silver box rose from the bloodied water to hang in the air, and it opened like a flower to reveal a central stamen of pulsing red that was pointed directly at me. Haddad fired again, but the box jinked away, and the energy bolt missed it by a hair.

I turned and dived for the door, a door that exploded in front of me as the silver box delivered its payload directly above my head. I rolled away from the smoking, molten remains of the doorway and twisted around, thinking that I would see the silver box reorienting itself for another attack.

Instead I saw it struck by Haddad’s third shot, my additional eyelids and visual filtering automatically adjusting so that I was not blinded forever by the brilliance of the nanofusion implosion as the box’s power plant overloaded.

Haddad picked me up, and together we ran to one of the other doors and entered the temple. A Priest of the Aspect of the Mending Hand coming the other way bent his head to me before leading his gang of acolytes onward to repair the damage caused by the would-be assassin.

How did . . . who would . . . I started to say, the words I wanted not coming readily to my tongue despite the efforts of internal autonomous systems that were trying to steady my heartbeat and restore calm.

We will talk in your quarters, Highness, replied Haddad. They are safe. For now.

My chambers in the temple were one of the things I was looking forward to leaving behind. Already in my imagination I had planned far more extensive and luxurious accommodations. I knew as a Prince I could commandeer such things, provided they were not already the property of another Prince or protected under the authority of a Prince, a temple, or the Emperor Hierself.

But I was glad to enter the simple living chamber that day. I sat down in the single chair as Haddad stood before me, and we both looked at each other, though of course Haddad kept his eyes down, as was only proper.

I had not seen an assassin before, or at least had not recognized any, for Haddad looked no different from any other priest. The priests of each Aspect had their own distinctive formal robes, but they rarely dressed in them, usually adopting simple tan-colored robes or shipsuits, one-piece coveralls like the one Haddad wore now.

He was tall and spare of frame, and looked to be around forty or fifty years old. His skin was lighter than my own, and more yellow than brown. His head was shaved, to reveal the transparent panels that ran from his temple to the back of his ear, the mark of a full priest. I could see the sheen of blue cooling liquid pumping around his brain, indicating that he had some Psitek activity running, though I could detect nothing with my own Psitek abilities. He had one natural eye, the iris a deep brown color, and one Bitek replacement, which was entirely green, without a pupil, and obviously specialized, but I did not know its type or purpose.

I wondered what he thought of me and how I measured up. He would have served Princes before me, as assassins were transferred by the Emperor every ten years. Haddad might well have been Master to other newly hatched Princes about to embark on their careers.

I was taller, faster, and stronger than the priests, the novices, and the mind-programmed servants I had lived among, but now a faint shadow of doubt crept in as Haddad stood before me. Perhaps I was not much of a Prince. Maybe I would be not quite as fast, or strong, or tall as the others. I might even be ugly, for I had the face I was born to have, Princes being forbidden to change their appearance, apart from enhancements or necessary repair. I had never thought of this, because I had never shared the company of equals, or even those who might venture an unbiased opinion.

:What was that silver box . . .:

I began to send, but Haddad interrupted.

:Mindspeech not recommended:

There are too many people within the temple and the outer grounds who can eavesdrop on mindspeech in close proximity, said Haddad. I am blanking the aural receptors and other devices in the room, so it is best to speak aloud.

Good, I said, trying to act as if I was in command and Haddad was acting on my instructions. But it did not sound like that, even to me.

You did well to evade the flower-trap’s firebeam, Highness, said Haddad. However, you must take it as a warning of things to come. A Prince or number of Princes are aware that you have ascended, and they seek to remove you before you become even a potential threat.

What? Already? I asked. While I knew about competition between Princes, at this stage I thought it was more chivalrous and I had no idea it was so . . . well . . . lethal. I haven’t done anything yet! I haven’t even connected to the Imperial Mind!

It is because you have not yet connected to the Mind, said Haddad. If successfully killed now, you are permanently removed, with no chance of rebirth. One fewer Prince to contend with, and the Emperor’s abdication is only two years away.

That makes it even more foolish of them, I said. When I become Emperor, I certainly won’t forget or forgive these attempts on my life!

Haddad didn’t even blink at this remarkably naive assertion.

I suspect they do not recognize your true potential at this stage, Highness, said Haddad. It is simply a common and accepted strategy to remove any newly ascended Prince candidates as an opportunity kill.

It’s a pathetic strategy, I muttered. I wouldn’t do it. Where’s the honor in taking out a new Prince?

Haddad was silent, no doubt thinking that either I was a soft idiot or I would soon change my tune.

For my part, I was bottling up a sudden rage at the priests who hadn’t told me that I might be assassinated straightaway and had neglected to inform me that the Emperor’s abdication was so close. I was aware that the Emperor abdicated every twenty years, and one of the ten million Princes of the Empire would ascend the throne. But I did not know how this came about, though I presumed the existing Emperor chose their heir, and I had not known the next such abdication and ascension was only two years away. I would have to work fast to do some glorious deeds and make myself known so the Emperor would choose me to be hier successor. Which was annoying, since I wanted to just look around the Empire a bit first, in my own ship. Though I supposed some adventures might come my way in any case.

The priests should have told me about all this, I said after a few moments of silence.

It is an intentional part of your education, or lack of education, Highness, said Haddad. The winnowing begins as soon as you are made a Prince. Approximately thirty-two percent of all ascending Prince candidates do not last past the first hour out of their childhood temple.

My internal chronometer said I had been a Prince for all of thirty-five minutes. If I made it through another twenty-five minutes, I’d be ahead of the statistical curve. . . .

Our first priority must be for you to connect to the Imperial Mind, said Haddad. This will have three positive results. Firstly, it will remove the possibility of permanent death, and so the benefit of assassinating you will reduce, possibly enough that any plans already laid will be postponed. Secondly, it will allow you to access resources and information necessary for your protection and future plans. And thirdly, you will be able to call upon the Mind to witness, and this will make blatant breaches of the law against you more unlikely.

What? I exploded. This was getting worse and worse. Blatant breaches? You mean a Prince could act against the Imperial Law?

It is a question of the potential benefit versus the potential punishment, replied Haddad. There are also ways and means of obscuring the Mind’s viewpoints and capture of information so that it is not entirely clear whether a breach has been committed or not—

I’m going to go and ask Uncle Coleport some serious questions, I interrupted. With a knife.

There’s no time for that, Highness, continued Haddad, as unruffled as ever. Do you have any possessions you need to pack?


I was stuck thinking about what Haddad had just told me. I had been taught that the Imperial Mind watched over everything, that it knew everything, and that Imperial Law was always followed to the letter. Though of course Imperial Law was not for the ordinary citizens of the Empire. They had to do whatever their ruling Prince decreed. Imperial Law was for Princes, setting down how the authority of a Prince worked with other Princes, the precedence of Princely commands, and so on.

Possessions . . . I repeated slowly. Though my mind was supposedly as accelerated as my body, I did not find my thoughts coming quickly.

I looked around my living chamber and through the doorway to my bedroom. All my clothes were brought to me, fresh and new, each morning. Information flowed to my mind directly, or sometimes via secure pods that were also brought to my rooms. Practice weapons came from the armory and went back there at the end of a session.

No. I have nothing. Uh . . . where are we going and . . . why are we going anyway? Surely it would be better to stay here and . . . um . . . plan . . .

My voice trailed off. Though I had long imagined the day when I would become a full Prince, none of my daydreaming had included being almost killed and then having to flee. Mostly it had consisted of looking at the specifications of various extremely fast and deadly starships.

We can’t remain here, explained Haddad. This temple will not allow you to stay beyond the first hour, Highness, and we must reach a place of relative safety, somewhere where you can access the Imperial Mind. Had you planned which service to join for your initial career?

Princes supplied the officers of all the key services of the Empire: Navy, Marines, the Diplomatic Corps, Survey, Imperial Government, Colonial Government . . . but they all sounded like hard work, and though I had expected I would join one of them at some stage, the thought of yet more training did not appeal to me. Also, it would mean putting myself into a hierarchy of Princes where I would be the lowest of the low. It would be much more fun to simply go somewhere interesting and be a Prince at large, preferably the only one around. Then I could do whatever I wanted.

Uh, I don’t want to commit to any service and all that training malarkey, I said. I want to enjoy myself first. Get a ship—you know, a corvette or maybe something smaller, of course with high automation, head out for some distant stars, see something beyond this moldy old temple, smoke a few Naknuk ships or the like. . . .

I looked at my Master of Assassins.

That’s not going to happen, is it?

Not advisable, said Haddad tersely. The nearest shipyard that might have a vessel not already earmarked for a Prince or under the aegis of a Prince would be . . . Jearan Six. We’d have to go commercial from here, several changes, several lines—the risk would be extremely high. Also, it would mean delaying your connection to the Mind.

Can’t I connect here, before we leave? I asked. I knew the procedure. Though I would later be able to communicate with the Imperial Mind wherever there were available priests to relay, my first connection needed to be from within the inner sanctum of a temple.


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  • (3/5)
    Lots of technobabble, but since it is a world-building series-opener, I can forgive the author for the glut of information. What interested me was the idea of a battle to be royale, as it were. Multitudes of children taken to be molded into the next heir apparent of this future society; all given the best of everything and then turned out and told to kill their way to the throne. An interesting concept- and a new MMORPG, apparently.
  • (4/5)
    Wow. This one was unique.

    Nowhere near as powerful as some of Nix's earlier works (The Abhorsen Trilogy, Shade's Children), but Nix has always been the epitome of the epic world builder for me. He creates an amazing, unique world, and manages to fit some incredibly unique characters within it who have compelling story lines, which always appeals. I've not been as much a fan of the Keys to the Kingdom series, which always felt like they were aimed at younger readers, but I remain highly respectful of him.

    The missing star represents the fact that I just didn't like this as much as some of those previous books. It does not mean it wasn't a good book. Very cool.
  • (3/5)
    This kept switching genres on me. The main character begins life as an incredibly privileged prince who is trained in war and espionage by his innumerable servants and androids. He battles the other princes (both male and female) to survive, knowing that only one of them will one day be chosen by the king (who is not their biological father, and who was once a prince in their position hirself) to be the next ruler of a galaxy-spanning empire.

    Then, he undergoes several years of tests, in which he is abandoned without weapons or any of his formerly necessary servants in various dangerous situations, from wild jungles to a human mining town.

    And eventually, he turns against the empire he once hoped to rule. But his realization that he loves a human girl and does not wish to rule is too late--he's already been chosen to be the next king. At which point the story becomes very trippy indeed, with plot reveals and conversation taking place in a purely psychic realm.

    It is very much not a book I expected from the cover, the title, or the author. It's good, but goes by too quickly. Too much is passed over; too many personality sea changes take place without enough to support them. It is definitely good, but I think if it had been expanded it would have been better.
  • (4/5)
    I received an ARC of this book from Harper through a First Reads giveaway.

    This is the 10th book I've read by Garth Nix, having previously read the Old Kingdom and Seventh Tower series as well as Across the Wall. A Confusion of Princes shares some thematic similarities to the Seventh Tower series since both center around a main character raised in a life of privilege who discovers the world he lives in is more complex than he was taught. Also both protagonists encounter girls which lead them to question the values of their societies.

    Not knowing much more than the genre and what I could gather from the back cover blurb, I was expecting a science fiction plot based around political intrigue. That turned out to be the case, but there is also a significant element of military action which would not be out of place in, say, a John Scalzi novel. Likewise, the technology described will not be surprising to an experienced reader of SF, though newcomers to the genre might feel a bit adrift until they can work things out from context. The result is an entertaining mix of action and scheming, as Princes vie with each other as well as outside threats in a intriguing SF universe.

    The content is a little more mature than some of Nix's other books, though nothing that couldn't be found in other YA novels. I was pleased to see that the futuristic Empire reflects the human diversity of real life, with Khemri described as brown and other characters running the gamut. The Empire, through distopianly hierarchical, is also rather egalitarian in a way. There is no mention of racial conflict and the term "Prince" is employed in a gender neutral way. Though Princes enjoy the largest amount of freedom in this society, they are still constrained in their choices, as Khemri discovers. Other people have far less freedom, with some reduced to being basically human automatons, and the lives of the lower classes are held in low regard. Ultimately this aspect of Imperial society is relatively unexplored, since our first person narrator is rather self-focused throughout.

    All in all, I rather enjoyed this novel and was pleasantly surprised to find it resolving satisfyingly at the end, since I had been anticipating that this might be the first in a larger series. This was also a disadvantage however. Although Khemri's personal story comes to a neat conclusion, the fate of the rest of the galaxy is largely up in the air and the outlook for Khemri and those he cares about could eventually be very bleak indeed. Looking at Garth Nix's website I see that an online game is apparently being developed around the same universe, but I would welcome another novel that explored the Empire and its neighbors further.
  • (4/5)
    Finally managed to pry it from my husband. I really did enjoy the read, a universe where ten million princes fight for the right to be emperor, being trained and moulded into a certain mind-set. Into this world comes Prince Khemri, who dies three times and from these deaths learns how to live.Very much in the tradition of the older SF it does seem to come abruptly to a halt after a roller-coaster ride to that point.
  • (3/5)
    amazing worldbuilding, cardboard characters
  • (4/5)
    Garth Nix presents another of his usual high-concept, action-packed universes, and for a YA audience it does not disappoint. The main character goes from superhuman to human, a narrative path exactly opposite of the one most books give us, and it's all the stronger for it.I was sad to see how quickly the story moved past certain characters. Very interesting people are introduced into the story, and then quickly snatched away as the rapid pace moves relentlessly on. Again, I feel this is a testament to the intended YA audience. As an adult reader, I would have liked to have spent more time in each of the major settings of the novel, getting to know the secondary characters that much better, and seeing (rather than being told) how these changes affected our narrator.A fun casual read.
  • (3/5)
    Many of my friends have been certain to inform me about how horrible I am for not reading Garth Nix's Sabriel and its accompanying novels. Okay, so I haven't read them, and as many times as I try to get them back into my to-be-read pile, they never seem to make it to the top. Yet, I have attempted some other Nix novels, and always found myself somewhat disappointed. With all of the hype I've heard about Sabriel, my expectations for Nix are very high, and so far nothing has really lived up to those expectations. A Confusion of Princes is just another title in that long line of Nix disappointments.A Confusion of Princes takes place in a highly science fiction-like world where Princes are programed from birth for their responsibilities. And when the time comes, out of the many Prince candidates, one will be chosen as Emperor. More than anything, Khemri wants that honor -he can even feel the crown of the empire on his head. But that crown threatens to slip after he's sent off on a secret mission after graduation from military school -a mission that brings him into contact with a woman named Raine.Let's take a look at this book in pieces -there were some good pieces and some not-so-good pieces. First, the writing. Nix is undoubtedly an incredible writer, he weaves elements of the world and characters together effortlessly, his style is fun and easy to read, and he really brings characters to life on the page. If it wasn't for Nix's strong characters, I may not have been able to finish this book (and overlook the not-so-good elements).And, the not-so-good elements: this book was incredibly predictable. I pretty much knew the plot as soon as the truth behind Khemri's secret mission was revealed and he started to get to know Raine. Even worse, the predictable plot of the book isn't that original. There were no unexpected twists, no shocking moments, nothing that set this book apart from everything else out there that it mimics. Speaking of mimicking -Princes reads like a video game, complete with having multiple lives, somewhat cheesy science fiction elements and an imperial system with an outer space backdrop (it's been done in video games).Strong characters and a fun writing style are what got me through this book. Though I was able to get through it rather easily, the other elements were major distractions. This book may work for some readers, but I was really looking for something more original and less predictable.
  • (2/5)
    I've always been a huge fan of Garth Nix and his writing, counting all three books in his Abhorsen trilogy among my top fantasy novels, but A Confusion of Princes left me unimpressed. I really liked the idea of A Confusion of Princes. The competitive nature of all the princes, the plotting and assassination attempts, and the secrets were all interesting, but everything seemed so vague and shallow. I never felt like the reader was given any in depth descriptions or explanations, which made it too easy to forget what I'd just read... something that isn't good in any novel, let alone a science fiction novel. My biggest complaint regarding A Confusion of Princes is the main character and narrator, Prince Khemri. I felt no connection to him at all. In fact, I found him to be quite whiny and annoying. As the novel progressed, he did improve slightly, for which I was grateful, but I still never found myself actually liking him. Instead, I sometimes wished he would die and stop being reborn so I could somehow have a different main character. Harsh? Maybe, but Khemri and I didn't see eye to eye on much. And, even when I thought that I might be able to connect with him (once he grew up a bit), Nix seemed to rush through situations where I might have come to build a bond with Khemri. This was very disappointing. The writing, however, is wonderful. I expect nothing less from Nix. Unfortunately, A Confusion of Princes fell short for me, but I wouldn't discourage you from giving this book a chance if you're a big Nix fan or a devoted lover of science fiction. Personally, I prefer Nix's fantasy novels... and if you're reading this review and are reconsidering picking up this book up, PLEASE consider reading any of Nix's other novels, especially Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen! They're excellent!
  • (4/5)
    My library called this book young adult fiction but I'm far from a young adult and I enjoyed it. Prince Khemri comes of age and is assigned a Master of Assassins. Good thing because someone tries to kill him before he can connect to the Imperial Mind. If a prince isn't connected to the Imperial Mind when he is killed he can't be reborn. We know from the beginning that Khemri died three times and was reborn three times. The book tells the tale of how he came to be killed and how he survived other attempts to kill him. It would spoil the book if I told any more about it. Just read it for yourself.
  • (3/5)
    First thing to note: the protagonist of this seems to be a person of colour. It's only mentioned a couple of times, and the cover obscures this fact, but I'm pretty certain of it. Yay for Garth Nix; ugh at cover design.A Confusion of Princes is really fun. I enjoy most of Garth Nix's stuff, and it was interesting to read something that is more technology-based than magic-based. I think I might prefer his fantasy work, but still, I found this very enjoyable and I liked the concept of the world he created. The romantic subplot was predictable, and I figured out immediately the necessary elements were introduced how Khem would end and what he'd do.I'm not sure about the narrative voice. It had to be first person narration, I think, for the characterisation to work, but there were some info-dumpy bits that felt clunky and Khemri doesn't start out as the nicest person to know -- and unless I missed something, the reason why he narrates the story in the way he does isn't explained. I.e. why does he record his story and put it somewhere it could be accessed by a Prince if he just wants to settle into his new life? He's told his story to Raine, to whom it most matters. It also didn't quiiiite work for me in his quick progression from Prince to person, even inside his head. That part of the story went by too fast.Still, A Confusion of Princes is a good read, quick and absorbing.
  • (4/5)
    Prince Khemri has been trained, enhanced, and programmed since infancy to become one of the elite rulers of the galaxy. He dreams of someday becoming Emperor. When he leaves his secure training area to take his place among other Princes, however, he learns that the world is not at all what he expected. Competition between princes is cut-throat, he has to work for the luxuries he expected to come with his station, and not all Princes are just and honorable. The biggest challenge comes when he is sent on a top-secret training mission where e has to live as a normal human, among other normal humans. Will he be able to function without the technologies that have surrounded him his entire life? Will he be able to complete his mission and return to the world of privilege he's always longed for -- or does a different destiny await him?This novel is pure sci-fi, so a change of pace from what I've been reading for a while. There's plenty of action as Khemri moves from one challenging situation to another. The heart of the story, though, is Khemri's character development -- and that character development is masterfully done. Khemri goes from believing everything he's ever been told about the nature of the Empire, to learning to think for himself. He retains some of his cold analytical thinking skills, but he also slowly learns how to relate to other human beings. Some readers may feel that he doesn't change enough, but it felt entirely believable and natural to me. I'd recommend this to any reader who enjoys character-driven sci-fi.
  • (3/5)
    From birth, Khemri has been molded into a superhuman Prince of the Empire, one of millions who work to carry out the will of the "Imperial Mind." After years of training, he is stripped of his powers and sent on a secret mission in which he begins to question his destiny.The first half of the book is mostly setting up the world and Khemri's role in it, so it feels slow until about midway through. The plot and Khemri's overall character arc was somewhat predictable, but how it happened was pretty fun to read once things really got going. Only three stars because it took so long for me to get invested in it--maybe bigger fans of science fiction would enjoy the world building better than I did.
  • (5/5)
    This was a quite enjoyable piece of fiction from an author that I already enjoy. I'd seen a recommendation for this book on the web a few months ago, so I was eager to get it through the library.When it came in, I was completely enthralled with it... for just over 3 hours. The brevity of the book was my only real issue with it. Nix created an expansive, amazing universe, populated it with a rich tapestry of characters in a complex and fully-realized political structure, and then kicked us out after only a couple hundred pages. I would have preferred a much longer story, or even a series of stories. I want to know so much more about the side characters and their various stories, and what happens to the Empire after this book is finished.... I realize it's just supposed to be a short sci-fi offering for young adults, but this universe is too brilliant to be constrained to just a single volume. Please, Mr. Nix, give us more!
  • (4/5)
    Garth Nix has an uncanny ability to create characters I fiercely identify with, mainly because no matter how fantastical or alien the universe they inhabit, these characters are unavoidably, unapologetically human. They have egos, and at times they can be arrogant, reckless, foolish or even cowardly. But beyond any of this, Nix's creations have a great deal of heart. Prince Khemri, Nix's latest protagonist, is no exception.You see, Khemri has been chosen. From a young age he has been raised in luxury, taught to use his physical and psychic enhancements, and regaled with tales of the deeds he will do and the battles he will win as he fulfils his destiny to become the next Emperor. Unfortunately, the other ten million Princes of the Empire have been raised on the same tales. And when Khemri comes of age he quickly discovers that there is more to the stories than anyone has been told.Khemri is in over his head, fighting to stay alive and one step ahead of his rival Princes. When he's selected for a special opportunity, Khemri must go outside the Empire for a year and make his way back alone for any hope of gaining the power he's expected his whole life. But will he want to return after he's seen what life outside the Empire is really like?Nix takes an interesting approach to worldbuilding: he doesn't spoon feed a comprehensive outline of his universe to the reader, choosing rather to let the pertinent information come out over the course of the story. I love this, because it feels as though Nix trusts his readers enough to let them work their way into his world, rather than being passively led through it.Make no mistake: this is my kind of writing. The plot is tightly constructed and satisfyingly complex, with a few different and equally valid points of view to consider. Khemri is a wonderful protagonist, and the supporting cast are just as well imagined, particularly Haddad, Khemri's Master of Assassins (who even gets his own short story at the end of the book!).
  • (4/5)
    A fun read looking into the journey from being a Prince among millions of Princes to becoming the one to replace the Emperor. This takes place every 20 years and Prince Khemri has quite an adventure along the way.
  • (4/5)
    This space opera romp drops you into the head of a young prince, whose altered body and mind place them in the elite class of rulers over a galactic empire. Thrust into a world of assassinations, politics, and far more danger than they expected, this adventure takes you through Khemri's maturation. The point-of-view is excellently deployed. The narrator casually drops mentions of incredible cruelties, which princes of the empire have simply learned to accept. Furthermore, the strange technologies and politics of the empire were paced out and revealed enticingly.The book's ending was a let-down. After such delicious point-of-view dissonance, having Khemri quickly internalize a moral code that the reader could more easily sympathize with was rushed and unsatisfying. I recommend this book despite the ending for anyone who likes coming-of-age adventure stories with a space flavor.
  • (3/5)
    Kind of a silly spaceboy coming of age tale.
  • (5/5)
    I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program to review. I have really enjoyed Garth Nix’s writing in the past and was eager to see what this book would hold. I loved his Seventh Tower series and his Abhorsen series; I also enjoyed his Keys to the Kingdom series. This ended up being a great book, but was very different from anything I had read from him before.Khemri is born with a number of enhanced mechanical and biological abilities; he has been trained for years on diplomacy, history, and technology all because he is born as a Prince of the Empire. Now the time has come for him to exit training and enter his service to the Empire. Should he die, he will be reborn. This is the story of his three lives. It’s a good thing he can be reborn because as soon as he enters society he finds out that there are millions of Princes and they all want each other dead.The beginning of the book was a bit slow to start and throws a million undefined terms at the reader, many sci-fi books do this. This book wasn’t as bad as some sci-fi but it does take a bit to figure out what is going on. Khemri isn’t the most likable fellow in the beginning of the story. He feels that as a Prince he is entitled to certain respect and comforts. When he finds he is one of millions struggling to be recognized it is a bit of a shock. Although Khemri does some stupid things, he also does heed the advice of his lead advisor, which saves him a number of times.The world building here is amazing. We are talking millions of worlds and an interesting power structure for them. The scope of the story focuses on the couple worlds that Khemri is directly involved in. It is a very interesting premise as well.Khemri grows a lot as a character as the story progresses. He is forced to live side by side with humans at one point and begins to learn about things like loyalty and love; things that were foreign concepts to him.The book is action packed and fast-paced. It was a very engaging story. The whole time you are wondering why Khemri is treated somewhat different than the other Princes and you keep wondering what his fate will be. Will he become Emperor? Will he die a permanent death? What is his fate?There is a great message in here too. In the end Khemri is forced to make some hard choices; will he be who he was born to be or will he be who he wants to be? It brings up some excellent questions around morality and mortality.This is a self-contained story, so everything is nicely wrapped up. I enjoyed the irony of the ending and really ended up loving the whole story. I would recommend for older teens as there is talk about sex in here; Khemri has a slew of courtesans to ease to his needs and the sex is talked about in a very casual (yet not overly descriptive) way.Overall I really enjoyed this book. Nix has created an intricate, intriguing, and creative world that is huge in scope but manages to focus on just a few worlds so that it doesn’t overwhelm readers. Khemri is an interesting character and watching him grow as he changes from a predestined powerful Prince to something more unique is fun. The story is engaging and brings up some interesting questions about mortality. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend to fans of Nix’s other works as well as fans of science fiction.
  • (4/5)
    A Confusion of Princes is the first book by Garth Nix that I've read, despite his being an Australian author of some note. After reading it, his other books have moved up on my mental TBR list.The story takes place in a space opera galactic empire, complete with fancy technology, body augmentations and psychic priests holding the empire together. The empire is run by the Emperor and the Imperial Mind, a sort of psychic presence that monitors almost everything and directs the actions of the empire's priests, assassins and princes. Princes are chosen from a young age based mostly on genetic predisposition to the augmentations that make them super human. They're taken away from their ordinary human families and raised in temples (which have very little to do with religion) and trained to be arrogant and self-centred pricks.The thing that prevented the main character from being insufferable was that the story was told retrospectively by his grown-up self (mind you, he's 18-19 for most of the story), who fully acknowledged what an idiot he was. I think if it was told in a more present manner, he would have been much more insufferable. There were many humorous moments where I laughed out loud at him as he learnt how the real world worked. I was also amused by some of the scenarios Nix set up which seemed to be poking fun at certain SF/space opera tropes.A Confusion of Princes is also a very action-packed and fast paced novel. Although it covers about two years, it jumped from highlight to highlight quite quickly with several "and nothing exciting happened for a few months" moments. In a way this was good because it kept the plot moving, but I also couldn't help but want to know more about the world Nix has built. Although this is a stand-alone novel, I wouldn't mind reading more stories set in the same world. There was a short story appended in the edition I bought (which I think is the standard Aussie Allen & Unwin edition — can I just say how nice it is to see vapourise spelt with both a u and an s?), about the main character's mysterious right hand man (aka Master of Assassins) but I didn't feel it added much to the story. I mean, it wasn't bad, I was just hoping a deeper look into the guy's psyche.What I found particularly interesting was the way all the imperial roles were gender neutral. Princes could be male or female, as could assassins and priests. There was a special gender-neutral pronoun for the Emperor heirself and while the main character was male and the world revolved around him, background characters were just as likely to be female as male (and Nix didn't shy away from the whole fighting a girl thing that trips up some). The only thing that annoyed was the whitewashing/homogenising of the main character on the front cover. He's meant to be black and spends most of the story with a mohawk.Overall, a fun read. I would call it YA but more for its brevity than, even, the coming of age aspect of the plot. Oh, and none of the science made me angry, yay! I recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA science fiction or wants a light, non-strenuous, read.4 / 5 stars
  • (3/5)
    I loved the Abhorsen trilogy. The story was complex, the characters were compelling, and the fear was well crafted. This new one? It felt like cotton candy. A pleasant read but I couldn't remember much of it when I was done.It didn't help that there was a mistake early on: “As you are not aligned with any senior Prince, and as he is actively recruiting, he will with a 0.98 percent certainty offer you attachment to his own House…”Umm... 98 percent is a great probability, as is 0.98 certainty. But 0.98 percent? That sucks. And it really bugs me when a mistake like this pulls me out of the fiction I am reading.
  • (3/5)
    Khemri is an arrogant young Prince of a star-spanning empire, biologically altered and psionically enhanced for superiority. And it turns out he’s been selected for special treatment even among Princes, if he can survive his training. His superpowers are supposedly limited in various ways, though I didn’t often have a sense of genuine risk. The narrative framing—wisdom recalling the actions and emotions of callow youth—draws the sting of some of the awful stuff he does, but there are still the mind-enslaved courtesans (and other servants) who make up the Princes’ staff. At the end he realizes that love is better, but “better” isn’t what was wrong with the mind-enslaved courtesans, and I didn’t feel that “whew, I’m glad I’m out of there” was exactly the reaction I wanted from my heroes.