A Confusion of Princes

Garth Nix
AUD $22.99
Availability: Out of print

A grand adventure that spans galaxies and lifetimes, A Confusion of Princes is a page-turning thriller, a tender romance, and a powerful exploration of what it means to be human. Bonus Garth Nix short story 'Master Haddad's Holiday' exclusive to the ANZ edition.

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.

Taken from his parents as a child and equipped with biological and technological improvements, Khemri is now an enhanced human being, trained and prepared for the glory of becoming a Prince of the Empire. Not to mention the ultimate glory: should he die, and be deemed worthy, he will be reborn.Which is just as well, because no sooner has Prince Khemri graduated to full Princehood than he learns the terrible truth behind the Empire: there are ten million princes, and all of them want each other dead.

Author bio:

Garth Nix has worked as a bookseller, book sales representative, publicist, editor, marketing consultant and literary agent. More than 5 million copies of his books have been sold around the world and his work has been translated into more than 39 languages. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two children.

Category: Young adult fiction
ISBN: 9781741758610
Awards: Short-listed, Aurealis Awards, Science Fiction Novel, 2012
Long-listed, Inky Awards, Gold Inky, 2013
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Pub Date: April 2012
Page Extent: 368
Format: Paperback - C format
Subject: Young adult fiction


Teachers reviews

Prince Khemri is a prince among many princes. He’s a genetically, psychologically, biologically enhanced human being – it’s just a pity that all the other princes want him dead.
The world Garth Nix creates is compelling – a cross between sci-fi and fantasy where the world of a fantastic and charismatic orphan prince, the priests and the mysterious Emperor vying for power meet the world of scientific and logical improvements to the Prince that make him truly a power to reckon with. This is what really drew me into the story, more so than has any other Garth Nix story before it.
Prince Khemri isn’t the most admirable of princely leads – he’s arrogant and self-absorbed – but his ambition and his position to view this strange world of princes makes us want to follow him and the mysterious Haddad. On his way, somewhat predictable, Khemri finds his redemption in the girl of his dreams and realises what it is to be human and not simply a prince.
The theme of redemption and human insight through love might not be the most original one ever, but Prince Khemri’s world is certainly an original offering and between himself, his ally Haddad, the lovely Raine and the intriguing Prince Atalin, who is Prince Khemri’s main opposition – and perhaps something more? – this is a story well worth reading, and an adventure every step of the way.
Prince Khemri does a lot of soul searching as to whom he feels he ought to be in this story, and what it means to be human, which would be excellent topics to explore in the classroom. Khemri has to struggle a lot with identity issues – was he a human or a Prince? Whom did he want to be? And how he saw his image reflected in Prince Atalin, and how it affected him. Image and identity, and how important they are in establishing a sense of self, a sense of direction and forming behaviour would be another great topic to discuss.
The world in which Garth Nix places Prince Khemri is one where many secrets are kept and lives are controlled by a very secret few. What is the purpose of this and is it a useful or ethical way to keep a community? Prince Khemri is able to be reborn as a Prince. How does knowing this affect his behaviour – does his behaviour change greatly when he thinks he can’t be reborn? What does this say about how life is valued?
The novel was a great ride and even despite the predictability of the ending – very satisfying.
The bonus short story, Master Haddad’s Holiday, was a great little piece to read about one of the characters you really come to care about in the novel.
Rebecca Fung

Garth Nix has written A Confusion of Princes in first person narrative, and begins towards the end of his narrator’s life. So we know from the start that Khemri will survive whatever his multiple life adventures are to bring. The premise is simple: men and women are born to ordinary mortals and selected for immortality, or the chance at immortality, by the sacrifice of the parents, who must give up their child to the Empire and its secrets, and also must give up their own identity forever.
The story requires acceptance by the reader of mind speech and other physical enhancements as possibility, and the severance of all family ties as acceptable for the reward of immortality and a life of battle, ferocity, and drug enhanced self-absorbed pleasure. There is no morality other than complete obedience and loyalty to the Empire. The setting is made relevant to us by naming the training school the ‘Naval Academy’, although of course these are Star Ships, and mind control is as important as bodily combat. This is the story of a man who does not even know that emotions such as love, loss, longing are worth having; and of his journey towards a selfhood which can either be all powerful and absorbed into the gestalt, or individual, subject to pain and death, and also to love and ordinariness.
For sci fi fans, there is enough of other worlds, star ships, robots, aliens, future technology, and the battle type scenarios to keep up interest, and for the more romantic reader, enough of the exploration of relationships and ethics to keep them reading through those battle scenes. There is also a surprising twist which sees sibling loyalty valued.
Nix writes well, and I found after the first couple of chapters that I was sufficiently engaged to enjoy this read. There is the bonus of a short story featuring Khemri’s protector, mentor, guardian: Master Haddad, who is appropriately wise, and very good value when it comes to saving/maintaining the identity that is Khemri through his various battles, dangers, and reincarnations in A Confusion of Princes.
Helen Wilde, SA

I will state from the outset that I am a fan of Garth Nix’s writing and it would be a poor book indeed if it did not satisfy at some level. The shift from fantasy to science fantasy also offered a wider field to explore and enjoy. I have read many of his stories with students at school and have also helped to foster enjoyment of the same works in my children at home. That said it would be an unusual person not to be hooked even a little by the opening of this work. “I have died three times and three times been reborn …” Nix had me there and I needed to know Khemri’s story.
A catchy start, a clear explanation of the time between the deaths and rebirths with all manner of characters and adventures along the journey and then a love story which ended well made for a good, even great read. As Khemri is selected and his physical body enhanced to become a Prince of the Empire, we learn more of who he is. From his boyhood dreams of the coolest and fastest slender space yacht, through his growth as a Navy Cadet, we watch him grow and change – a little. I do not think that I admire Khemri as for much of the story I found him more annoying and immature than anything else. Clearly he has quite a journey ahead of him in many, many ways.
The character I did enjoy the most, and the extra chapter offered a most tantalising glimpse into his character that I am left hungry for more, was Haddad. Part body guard, mentor and ninja his exploits were engaging to say the least. With Haddad’s assistance and wisdom to hand, you get the feeling that failure for Khemri will not be the result of anything in Haddad’s control.
Anyway, with all the technology including psitek, meditek, bitek, and adventures in simulators and between planets there is plenty happening throughout the story. It is accessible for most students and offers an easy pathway in to science fiction. I enjoyed the read, as did my children. A copy should be available in every school Library, ready to be enjoyed by all, science fiction or fantasy fan or not.
Jennifer Shelton, Bendigo South East College

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