Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Princes of the Golden Cage

By Nathalie Mallet

When a guy has hundreds of wives and concubines, he is bound to have a lot of sons. And when the guy is the ruler of a wealthy kingdom which does not have the tradition of the first born son being the next to rule but instead whichever son the guy deems fittest...well, a real mess can be created as sons vie for the throne. So in order to avoid said mess, the guy locked all his sons older than ten in a prison. Sure, it's a fancy prison, with all the choice viands a prince could wish for, and luxurious clothes and furnishings, servants to tend to all one's needs, and even a harem of lovely young women to satisfy the princes' urges. But it is still a prison. And there they will remain until Daddy makes his choice...
Of course, in a situation like that, you have to have some rules, otherwise it would just be open season on princes. So the princes can't just slaughter each other, willy-nilly. No, there has to be a just cause, usually an insult or a slight of some kind, really only an excuse to fight. And the fights are strictly regulated, with rules of behavior and combat. All in all, the Golden Cage is not a happy place in which to live.
So Prince Amir, a bookish lad, tries to keep his head down and avoid contact with his hundreds of brothers as much as possible. Which has been working pretty well for Amir until one of the brothers is killed in mysterious circumstances. Rumor circulates through the Cage that Amir, standoffish and bookish as he is and thus suspect, is a powerful sorcerer and that he killed his brother through magical means. Of course, Amir knows this is nonsense, especially since he doesn't even believe in magic. Then two more brothers die in the same mysterious manner. And Amir will have to leave his apartment in order to figure out who is behind the magical murders of his brothers and to clear his own name. And hopefully not die trying.

This was a pretty good story, with palace intrigues, secret passages, evil spirits, duels and masquerades. It is also the first book in the Prince Amir Mystery Series. Overall, I liked the book, although there were parts I thought rather weak, like all these hidden passages that go throughout the Cage. The building was specifically built to be a prison for the princes, why add hidden passages? Also, I thought the ending was rather cruel and that all those deaths were too much. Especially that of one of the characters that Prince Amir was just starting to get to know and respect. I was sorry to see him killed off.
But, despite these quibbles, I did enjoy the book. It was exciting and interesting, with lots of intriguing mysteries.

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