A Confusion of Princes – by Garth Nix
I adore Garth Nix! His Old Kingdom trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen) were books that helped create my enduring love of fantasy as a genre, and ten years on from the first time I read them, I still think they’re wonderful. I also enjoyed the Keys to the Kingdom series he wrote for younger readers. So I have high expectations for new Garth Nix material – and happily his latest novel doesn’t disappoint! Here’s my thoughts:
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.
Soon, 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, yay!).
Read it. Do it!
And if you have read it, what did you think? Is my bias showing or do you feel the Garth Nix love too?