A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix Published at The BiblioSanctum:

Khemri is a prince in line for the role of emperor. What he doesn’t realize when he comes out of his stasis is that he’s one of millions of princes, male and female, and there’s a good chance that any or all of them will try to assassinate him or at least make his life miserable. All the princes have been taken from various parents and have received the same training, knowledge and bi-tech, psy-tech and mech-tech enhancements, but when Khemri arrives at the military to begin this new stage in his life, he discovers that he has a few advantages that set him above the rest. The first and most prominent advantage is Haddad, the "legendary" Master of Assassins assigned to him. Then there is the unusually high number of priests assigned to him and the secret encounter with the Arch Priest, speaking directly for the Emperor...

Khemri quickly realizes that, despite all the knowledge that has been fed into his mind and body all this time, his experience is severely lacking, as is the knowledge of the politics, status and basic how-to of his new status as a cadet. From the fairy tale-like prince stories he had come to admire during his time in stasis, he’d expected far more grandeur, but instead ends up as a cadet on the bottom of the ladder, even with his inexplicable privileges. Fortunately, his privileges and his own confidence and intelligence is enough to help him survive his colleagues.

I had believed Khemri would end up spending a lot of time in this typical academy setting, making allies and enemies, similar to Ender's Game. This stage in Khemri’s life did last for a few months, but Nix, having established the hostile environment and Khemri’s ability to struggle through and counter it, moves on quickly to an enemy attack that is pivotal to Khemri's career. Khemri ends up in the right place at the right time to effectively end the battle himself at the cost of his life for the first time.

Khemri is cocky, outspoken, tactless, smart-mouthed, stubborn and generally a bit unlikable, but I realized, in the moment when the Imperial Mind determined that Khemri is worthy if reanimation, that I had come to care about him and his as yet unknown fate just a little bit.

From here, the story takes a turn. His valor in battle earns him a promotion that involves the complete removal of all of those privileges, including the biological and technical enhancements and the connection to the Imperial Mind, Haddad and his priests. The goal of this part of the book is to teach Khemri how to be human and to respect the lesser beings. Khemri - now Khem - spends some time learning to survive in some unique environments, skillfully brought to life by Nix, before finally settling with a group of colonists. He falls in love with a young woman named Raine and helps her people fight off pirates who may or may not have the support of the Empire. (This is where the confusion of princes comes in: Khemri looks just like Prince Atalin, the one who attacked the colonists.)

Khem's awakening to the more important things in life goes through typical motions, but the elements surrounding all this really don't mesh together strongly enough. There are a lot of alien races and lore and politics that are mentioned and described nicely, but they ultimately don't play a great role beyond padding out the world. That would be fine, if the finer elements weren't seeming to serve the same padding purpose. Characters, other than Raine, appear with promise, but really aren't given much depth. I had expected Haddad to play a more prominent role, but he disappears for most of the book while Khemri is fending for himself. This was most disappointing with Atalin, whose motivations are never revealed in order to justify her actions in the end. The relationship between Khemri and Atalin is not developed at all to make me easily accept their outcome. This would have been a very interesting story if we could have seen things from Atalin's point of view as well, adding far more depth to the confusion of princes than the mere fact that they shared the same facial features.

I also had issue with the technology used. There was always a device available to solve any problem. There are houses that the princes belong to, though Khemri is warned to choose none. And finally, we are never told why Khemri was the the favoured prince for the role of Emperor.

Despite these numerous issues, they weren't enough for me not to enjoy the book over all. But in comparison to the other Nix books I've read, this one is not on the top of the list.