Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book Review: The Princes of the Golden Cage

Title:The Princes Of The Golden Cage
Series: Prince Amir
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher/Year: Night Shade Books/2007
-Webpage: Nathalie Mallet
-Blog: Nathalie Mallet's Blog
-Challenges Fulfilled: 1st in Series Challenge , Fantasy Reading Challenge , Becky's Book Reviews A to Z Challenge

Synopsis:  Prince Amir lives in a lavish and beautiful cage. He lives in a palace with hundreds of his brothers, all barred by law from ever leaving the palace until he, or one of his brothers, becomes the next Sultan. Living under constant threat of death at the hands of his scheming brothers, Amir has chosen a life of solitude and study. His scholarly and alchemical pursuits bring him under suspicion when his brothers begin to die from seemingly supernatural means. Amir finds himself thrown together with his brother Erik, the son of a barbarian princess. Together they must discover the dark secret that is stalking the halls of their golden cage.

Review:  This was an impulse buy with a giftcard from the holidays, but one I'm happy about.  The Arabian setting, even an Arabian inspired fantasy, was vastly interesting.  Of course we always hear about the intrigues of the harem, its all women and whenever you put together such a large amount of women in a place dedicated to ambition and ruthlessness there is bound to be fun stories to relate, but I think Mallet's take on the all those Princes in line for the throne is equally entertaining.  Just like in any socially dominant setting groups are formed, cliques are found and the 'in group' pushes around the 'out group'.  Only in this instance it doesn't pay to be in either group quite frankly since anyone could be a rival for the throne.  Amir's approach to just hiding, staying low and blending in works perfectly well.

The novel does begin slow and tends to follow threads of storyline for a little while before a new one begins and it follows that one instead.  Sometimes it will go back to the previous storyline quickly, but often several chapters run by without significant development on the major plot threads.  It wasn't much of a problem for myself, since I read this in one sitting in a four hour period of time, but I could feel the frustration that others might feel if they read a few chapters, put it down and returned to it the next night.  Some of the threads became so confusing and convoluted that I ignored them in favor of the more interesting ones.  Such as the intrigues between all the Brothers in the Cage or the mystery that surrounded Erik, Amir's half brother.

The book is told from Amir's first person POV and ordinarily I don't like reading from a male's point of view.  I can't get into it as well I suppose.  Amir however is different--his silent observations and caustic remarks were amusing and kept me from feeling like I was swimming in male territory.  Though he is labeled as nineteen in the book, I can't quite believe that much of the time.  He acts more like he's in his mid to late 20's.  As a character he takes a while to 'like'; he prefers the 'head in the sand' approach to life and keeps to himself mostly.  This wouldn't be so bad, except he spends a lot of time acting more like a child who's been left out of a group then a loner who thinks its a better idea to be such.

The friendship he builds with Erik is fun and a little quirky as Erik definitely is more intelligent and personable of the two, but has no common sense and a complete blind spot to failings of those he cares about.  The intrigue surrounding their Brothers' suspiciously magical deaths only occasionally pops up--usually just before one such Brother dies--and its resolution is part of the confusing and convoluted plotlines I mentioned.  It makes sense, mostly, but to get to that sense you have to wade through a lot of petty half-secrets and explanations.

The only other complaint I have is that sometimes the author would have Amir tell us what has happened rather then have us view it as its happening.  The adventure that prompts the second book, The King's Daughters, for instance is merely relayed to us as a momentary aside instead of seeing how the decision came about.  Regardless I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the second one (which I also bought for christmas) and hope to see a third one sometime soon!