My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is more like 3.5 but there were things holding me back. When I checked it out, the librarian wondered how many books would be in this series. Turns out, just one. Oh I suppose Nix could go back to this universe but this is a very complete in one book.
It’s some far flung future where normal humans are either living on the fringes of the Empire or end up mind-processed into servants (cooks, sex partners, etc.) or as priests/assassins. Then there are the princes, millions of them. When a child has the ability to be a prince, they’re immediately taken from their family and raised in a temple with no sense of family and a huge sense of entitlement. Eventually, once every twenty years a new Emperor is selected from them and it’s mostly a battle to the finish but it turns out death need not be permanent (there seems to be clones of them). In fact, they’re barely human any more, there are so many mektek (mechanical) bitek (biological) and psitek (psychic) enhancements they are superhuman.
The beginning is rather a large info dump and since we know it’s in the future where the protagonist, Prince Khemri, is laying it all out for us, we know he survives at least three deaths (because the dust jacket and he tell us so almost immediately). The story follows Khemri from his release from the temple and into the military and his journey to become an Emperor candidate. Oh for those who get themselves all worked up about females in stories, Prince is gender nonspecific. That said, there are several female roles but the main character is male.
And he leaves the temple with an overconfidence level and arrogance somewhere between Captain Kirk and Zap Brannigan. He is assisted by his Master Assassin Hadad, who is the only reason Khemri lasts five minutes, literally. Khemri learns almost instantly that everything he learned about being a prince is a half-truth at best and most other princes want him dead before he can meld with the Imperial Mind which will witness the things around him (there are rules for killing each other but what the Mind doesn’t see…). He also meets with Morojal, an arch priestess who clues him in that he’s actual special.
The story takes us through his first year as a cadet then beyond to something that puts him at great risk but will make him a better prince. As Khemri goes, the princely entitlement is chipped away and some humanity peeks through but is he becoming too human? The answer to that would spoil the ending.
And here is where some of my problems lie. The ending was too pat, too happy really. This is one story where a happily ever after seems out of place or at least rushed. And that’s my other problem, it’s not the best-paced novel I’ve ever read. Some parts drag on and on and others are rushed. The ending and his transformation definitely felt too fast. Over all I liked it in spite of that and Khemri isn’t always an easy character to like as arrogant as he starts out but this is his coming of age story and it mostly works.
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