A Confusion of Princes

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
A Confusion of Princes Book Poster Image
Exciting space adventure morphs into clever coming-of-ager.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A Confusion of Princes is set in the far future in a vast intergalactic empire. Biotechnology plays a large part in the daily lives of Khemri and the other princes, and the book presents clever ways in which biotech might develop in the coming centuries.

Positive Messages

Although A Confusions of Princes at first seems to be a tale of intergalactic adventure, it gradually reveals itself as a clever and affecting coming-of-age novel. Khemri discovers that a life of privilege isn't all it's cracked up to be, and he gradually learns that compassion, empathy, humility, and sacrifice are worth more than riches and acclaim.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Khemri starts the novel as a callow, selfish, entitled know-it-all who expects his life as a prince to be filled with riches and celebrity. During his training, however, he survives enough mistakes to learn the advantages of thinking before he speaks, listening to others, and caring about something greater than himself.

Violence

There's a fair amount of violence in A Confusion of Princes, but because most characters have at least the possibility of being resurrected, the impact of their deaths is somewhat mitigated. Khemri engages in duels, starship battles, attacks by alien zombies, and other mayhem, but the depiction of it isn't highly realistic or graphic.

Sex

Both male and female courtesans are available to Khemri on his ship, but his encounters with them aren't detailed in any way. Khemri begins to fall in love with a young woman named Raine, and they embark on a sexual relationship, but no intimate details are given.

Language

A small amount of profanity in a few moments of emotional intensity ---  "s--t" and "f--k" -- and the former is also used in a couple instances in reference to feces.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Passing references to smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs in some of the scenes featuring the princes (who are age 17 and up). Khemri, however, is too busy trying to stay alive to have time for these indulgences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Confusion of Princes is a far-future space adventure that also functions as a clever coming-of-age story. There's a fair amount of mostly bloodless violence -- teen protagonist Khemri engages in duels, starship battles, attacks by alien zombies, and other mayhem -- and a small amount of profanity ("s--t," "f--k"). Male and female courtesans are available to Khemri on his ship, but his encounters with them aren't detailed, nor are those with his with the young woman he falls in love with. There are passing references to smoking, drinking, and recreational drugs in some of the scenes featuring the princes, though Khemri doesn't indulge. The emphasis of the story is on his maturation from callow adventurer to caring adult.

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What's the story?

Chosen to be a prince in the vast intergalactic Empire, teen Khemri figures that his life will be full of adventure, leisure, and acclaim. But he quickly discovers that he gets little respect from his peers and is in constant danger of being assassinated. Eventually, he's stripped of his princely powers, and that's when he really begins to discover his potential.

Is it any good?

Although action-packed, A CONFUSION OF PRINCES takes a little time to develop its true theme: that a life of wealth and privilege doesn't necessarily bring happiness. Readers of a less technical bent may be puzzled by the jargon used to describe future technology. But author Garth Nix keeps the suspense high and the tone light throughout, and the book builds to an exciting and affecting conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how expectations about what constitutes a fulfilling life can change between adolescence and adulthood. Teens: What do you think would make you happy as an adult?

  • Does the thought of being nearly immortal seem appealing? If you knew you could die and be revived later, how might that change your philosophy and behavior?

  • Do governments, such as the Empire in A Confusion of Princes, always act with their subjects' best interests in mind? Is there ever a gap between what they say and what they do?

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