A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
Sydney, AU: Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBNs 0739368265 and 9781741768008
Read by Michael Goldstrom
*Please note that the following post may contain spoilers and does not summarize the text, as it was written as part of my coursework for LIS 7220 Materials for Young Adults, and the first group of intended readers are my professor and classmates, who should be familiar with the book. If I make adjustments or an additional post with summary/review information in the future, I will post an update link here. Now read on!
I read this book mostly in epub format on my Nook, beginning my reading and filling in transit/snow shoveling time with the audiobook. I am accustomed to switching back and forth from audio to text when I have a lot of books to get through in a short period of time, as with this course, but this is one of the first times I have performed this juggling act with a etext, which made transitions a little more difficult unless changing medium at a chapter break, which is what I opted to do shortly after beginning.
Having both audio and text on hand allows me a greater ability to grasp world-building. The premise behind Nix’s novel is fairly easy to follow for a sci-fi text (I am an avid science fiction reader, but prefer conceptual science fiction of the type in Philip K. Dick novels and films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in which mechanics need not be explained, versus more technical science fiction, emphasis on the science) but as with all/most science fiction and fantasy texts, must take a moment to get accustomed to the world. I listened to the first part of the first chapter two times and then picked up with the physical book in order to make sure I had the basic “teks” mentioned in the text down after they were first mentioned.
I suspect this book would work well with many (young and old) readers less familiar with science fiction because of the fact that Khemri, the main character, after a brief overview and speculation of his early life, is watching the world he lives in unfold around him with the reader. Only towards the end of the novel, after Khemri’s first death and Adjustment training, does he seem to start becoming less surprised as he constantly uncovers that life (and not just life as a prince) is not what he had expected. This, and Khemri’s age, is really what defines this book as “young adult” to me versus an adult novel.
The most fascinating part of this story is its ending. In many ways it unfolds like many of the teen dystopias which are popular now, allowing for an individual teen character to see the flaws in his/her world, giving him/her the tools/natural skills to potentially bring down the system/government/etc. The fact that Khemri walks away from what he not only originally perceived as his destiny and walks away from a position of power is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. It has a lot of the appeal of what makes The Hunger Games particularly good, except Khemri decides to hope for the best and live the life he chooses to live, versus Katniss Everdeen’s inability to free herself from the system into which she was born, as she is made the Mockingjay even when she does not choose to be.
This sounds like admitting defeat in many ways, though, doesn’t it? Khem/Khemri knows that the Empire and the Imperial Mind have conditioned him to want power, so that even if he accepts it, he may lose control when he seemingly gains it. I loved this book throughout, but the end made me stop in my tracks, as he made a decision which was not entirely anticipated from my previous knowledge of similar books from its genre. For that, I love it even more, and think it deserves extra props and reading, especially in the current climate of dystopian fiction.