This book was picked up not so much because of the plot but because it was a new book by Garth Nix. Garth Nix's book Shade's Children was one of my favorite books growing up and I've read it probably fifty times, each time getting something new out of it. It's a very well done science fiction dystopia in a time before they were the popular thing to do. And here he was, with a new science fiction novel out, hopefully just as interesting as his others. I was pumped.
A Confusion of Princes follows a main character named Khemri, a "prince" of the realm, which really just means that he is pretty much a genetically modified human that now has authority over parts of the galaxy. There are thousands of other princes around and each has to fight among themselves to try and become the next Emperor when the current one retires.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how to describe the book. There is just so much going on. Nix has created a very elaborate science fiction universe with rules and regulations and dangers. The mark of a good science fiction universe is that it doesn't have to really be explained; you just absorb it as you read. I can say that there were marks of that in Confusion. This world was so complex, from the princes to the priests that served them, to the strange hierarchy and confused hidden world to the rebels that you didn't even know existed until halfway through the book.
But therein lies the problem: Nix has created a ridiculously in-depth world but he doesn't allow himself time to play in it. There is so much potential in Confusion but he rushes through it to his hasty conclusion. Confusion could have easily been a trilogy. It's even nicely divided up into three main sections as you read. Hell, the back cover informs you that this is the story of Prince Khemri's three deaths. If that isn't the invocation of a trilogy, I don't know what is.
I was constantly impressed by how real this world creation was but the entire time, I knew that this was a one off series and I couldn't understand how we were going to reach a satisfactory conclusion with so much to be explored. I'm not saying that the plot wasn't entertaining; it was actually a really well thought out hero's journey narrative with enough twists and turns to make it a really interesting read. The only problem was that it went too quickly through it. I wanted more of him learning out to be a real prince, more of him learning about the rebels and more interaction with the antagonists. It just read as wasted potential.
I don't want to put you off Garth Nix completely because he's a very interesting writer who uses very original ideas to create elaborate worlds to play around in. Shade's Children, which I'm sure I'll write on at some point, is one of my favorite novels of all time. But this was not one of his greatest works. It had potential but it just didn't live up to it.