Throw Dune, Ender’s Game, Star Trek, Dr. Who, and Hunger Games into a blender and you get A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I like all of those stories. There’s centuries of intergalactic scheming. There’s a battle school. There’s even an arena where tributes run to the weapons to get the upper hand in combat. (Okay, so the arena scene was kinda meh because I kept picturing Katniss in the background trying to get to the cornucopia.)
Princes are superhumans that travel the galaxy and do whatever they want – or at least that’s what Prince Khemri thinks as he is connected to the Imperial Mind. When he’s connected to the Imperial Mind, he doesn’t have to fear death. He can be reborn as long as the Imperial Mind finds him worthy. It’s when Khemri is stripped of his connection to the Imperial Mind that we start to worry about him as a character. He becomes a regular mortal – a la Superman II when the Man of Steel just wants to be Clark Kent. While he’s mortal, he starts to relate to the humans that he once thought were subservient. He is engrossed in a tiny conflict in one small solar system, but is willing to risk it all to help his newfound friends and realizes that one tiny system may play a bigger role in the Empire.
The worldbuilding is great. The Tek is well-defined (this device is biological, this one is mechanical) and consistent. Part of it felt like a video game power system, and that may very well be because the game was released before the book as an advertisement. I liked P.J. Haarsma’s Rings of Orbis better as a pioneer in book-related gaming, though.
It is a standalone book, not a series, which is quite the shocker in today’s YA speculative fiction market. I liked it and wouldn’t mind seeing more stories from different Princes.