You'd think being a Prince in a vast intergalactic empire would be about as good as it gets. Particularly when Princes are faster, smarter, and stronger than normal humans. Not to mention being mostly immortal. But it isn't as great as it sounds. Princes need to be hard to kill—as Khemri learns the minute he becomes one—for they are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Every Prince wants to become Emperor, and the surest way to do so is to kill, dishonor, or sideline any potential competitor. There are rules, but as Khemri discovers, rules can be bent and even broken. Soon Khemri is drawn into the hidden workings of the Empire and dispatched on a secret mission. In the ruins of space battle he meets a young woman called Raine, who challenges his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself. But Khemri is a Prince, and even if he wanted to leave the Empire behind, there are forces that have very definite plans for his future. . . .
A Confusion of PrincesFeatured
Reality couldn't be further from the truth. Khemri's journey to discovering his real place in the Empire, and the value of the people he once considered substandard, is compelling. The plot twists serve to keep the reader fully engaged.
The beginning feels slow, mostly because the amount of backstory, world building, and unfamiliar terms/names we are innundated with in the first few chapters makes it hard to really sink into the world of the story and live there. But about four chapters in, the action gets going, the world begins to feel familiar enough that we can follow the story without getting hung up on extraneous details, and by the time the first major plot twist hits, we're hooked.
Khemri is a mostly unsympathetic character at first. Hard to like. Hard to root for. But this is by design. As his journey progresses, his character slowly grows and changes, until by the end of the book, this reader was a die hard Khemri fan.
Fascinating world building, a compelling story, and some nice subtle character growth make this a book worth reading.
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.