Have you ever read a book that just got in your head? And then it turned around over and over again and every which way you turned it there was something new and fascinating about the story? That was A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix for me. I listened to it a few weeks ago (again, on a road trip. Sigh.) and it’s stuck with me. But because I listened to it, I wasn’t quite sure how to spell any of the names. I’ve finally looked up the names and am ready to explore it with you.
Khemri is a prince of the empire; a genetically and technologically enhanced human who, thanks to his enhancements, is superior to just about everybody around him. As a prince he was taken from his biological parents at a very early age, then raised in near-seclusion in a temple. When he is finally of age he meets his Master of Assassins, learns that almost every other prince in the universe (and there are millions of them) are out to kill him, and his only chance of survival is connecting to the Imperial Mind, the ruling entity in the empire. Of course, he does connect to it, thereby ensuring his survival even if he is killed (which he is, three times. No spoilers there, it’s in the first sentence of the book).
I saw a lot of Christian parallels or themes in this book. There are three main strengths to the Empire: Psitek, Mektek, and Bitek (psychological technology, mechanical technology, and biological technology). Though the empire has enemies that possess one or more of these technologies, the empire always prevails because of how it uses this trinity together. The Imperial Mind (the “emperor”) is in charge of everything, can “witness” or watch what’s happening to the princes, and has priests that serve it and can strengthen a prince’s connection to it. It also decides if a prince lives or dies if a prince is killed. It’s not a perfect parallel to God: the mind is made up of the consciousnesses of all the former emperors and the current emperor merely tries to control all the previous consciousnesses. Khemri is an arrogant, selfish, naive person until we get to the point of the story where all his powers are taken away and he is sent down to a remote, unimportant planet to undergo a test as a normal human. He essentially sacrifices himself for the planet, and then the story gets interesting.
There’s violence. Khemri is definitely no role model for the first 2/3 of the book. There is a bit of romance, mind control, and sex is mentioned, but not described. I’d say this is a book for teenagers, not really middle grades.
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