Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 2203
Everybody wants to rule the world
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Would you give an important leadership position to someone who really wanted it? That question was memorably posed in the Hitchhiker's Guide series, and I thought about it often while reading A Confusion of Princes.

In a strange far future, the job of being Emperor goes to the fittest and most competent of 10 million Princes (in the gender-neutral Machiavelli sense.) The system reminds me a bit of ancient Chinese bureaucratic testing or Russian gymnastics testing. Children are evaluated and removed from their families to be trained and molded into the arms and legs of the empire. Some become explorers, or military officers. They form cohorts and they attempt to assassinate their rivals.

Khemri is our viewpoint character, and we follow him around as he is variously tested and reborn through the Princely Reboot System that has to do with him being jacked in. He's specifically raised to be oblivious to the needs of others. For instance, when he is reborn into a clone body, "Later, I would think more about that, and what my rebirth might be costing someone else. At that moment, I was simply elated to be alive, and there was also this business of getting an award. I was a hero?"

I think there are a couple main plot lines that can get you to adulthood in a YA novel. You can reject that which you have known and become your own person, or you can work toward accepting what you need to learn and integrate with. I prefer books of the second type, possibly because I am an adult.

This story is more of the first, with Khmeri learning, through the tutoring of his Master of Assassins and the unusual experiences he has, that what he thought he knew is not always correct.
"Perhaps the most important lesson for me was not to accept what I saw or heard at face value and to look beyond the official description or information to see if there was something I could use."

Much of the story is about Khmeri learning to question what he thought he knew, but many of those experiences are guided and instigated by the adults in his life, so it feels less valid than one he initiated himself. I am not left with the feeling that he ends the book as an adult, but rather as a rebellious teenager.

Read if: You liked the Deathstalker books. You are interested in atypical ambition. You'd like to see the development of a conscience.

Skip if: You want a moral investigation of the character's system, you are creeped out by the unquestioning use of slaves, destiny annoys you.
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