Sunday, 12 August 2012


A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

Khemri is a prince of the realm, one of ten thousand princes. Unfortunately, they all want each other dead. Only one can become the Emperor, and killing the others improves your odds. Khemri has been singled out by the Imperial Mind, a great honour. But then he starts to realise that the world he lives in is not what he thought it was.

This book reminded me of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Wolf Hall is a brick-sized, doorstop of a book which I utterly loathed. It's also a portrait of Thomas Cromwell and is highly critically acclaimed. I believe it won the Man Booker Prize. None of these are things it has in common with A Confusion of Princes, a YA sci-fi novel. What they do share is a feeling of unmet potential. Throughout Wolf Hall, there were dozens of points where I was sure we were on the cusp of something interesting happening. Unfortunately, these interesting things either didn't happen or happened "off-screen." The same thing happened with A Confusion of Princes. I wanted to like it, and I kept thinking that it was about to get interesting, but it never did.

Prince Khemri's main character trait is his ignorance, and after a while his surprise at finding out the world is not like he thought it was is simply exhausting. The passages expressing these realisations and reactions to them feel identical (I can't say whether or not they actually are because I couldn't bring myself to revisit any of them).

It's my own fault, I suppose. I hated, utterly loathed Sabriel, which is probably Nix's most well-known work. I couldn't bear it, I had to drag myself through it. And yet, I adored The Ragwitch. I hoped this book would be more likely the latter. Sadly, it wasn't.

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