The Princes of the Golden Cage is Nathalie Mallet’s debut novel and the first book in the Prince Amir series. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy from a book giveaway on Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Book Reviews last month, so I recently read it to review here. This mystery story is not one I would recommend, but it is good if you are looking for an entertaining, quick read. In spite of its flaws, I did find this book kept me turning the pages quickly until the end, but it was a case of an interesting idea executed poorly.
Prince Amir and his brothers, who number over one hundred, are forbidden to leave the cage they live in until one of them becomes the next sultan. Amir is not interested in becoming the next sultan or being killed by one of his more ambitious brothers, so he tries to remain unnoticed and spends a lot of time in his room studying. However, Amir’s compassion for the two insane brothers he cares for is noticed by his brother Erik, who decides to befriend Amir. Amir is unsure whether or not he should trust Erik in a society where the brothers are constantly trying to eliminate other contenders for the throne, but Erik is persistent. Because of his relationship with Erik, Amir meets and falls in love with his cousin Eva who is to become the first sultana after the next sultan is chosen.
One night, one of the Sultan’s sons dies suddenly, and observers say this death could have only been the result of dark sorcery, although Amir and the Grand Vizier’s assistant are convinced the brother must have been killed by poison. As a pattern emerges in which a brother is killed during each full moon, it becomes more and more obvious that sorcery is involved, and the sorcerer appears to be gaining power with each of his victim’s deaths. Rumors abound that the studious Amir is the culprit, and he and Erik must figure out who the real murderer is to clear his name… before they both become victims.
This story, told from a first person perspective, is a blend of mystery and adventure with some romance thrown in. It is a short, fun book that can be read quickly without taking the time to think about it. The Princes of the Golden Cage is entertaining, but it is not thought provoking or well written.
In fact, this book stands out as one of the most poorly edited books I have ever read. The grammar is often quite awkward, which can be attributed to the fact that English is not Mallet’s first language and is one she has been writing in for less than 4 years; however, a good editor should have been able to fix that in addition to the many typographical errors in this novel.
The characters are not very well developed, but this is a plot-heavy mystery/adventure story and not a character study. In spite of that realization, I found myself shaking my head a few times because the characters were being so stupid. They were not good at making well developed plans and thinking things through. At all.
The highlight of the novel was the setting of the cage and its affect on the brothers living within it. I had never heard of this before, but a sultan’s sons living in a cage until the ascent of the next sultan was based on a historical Ottoman institution instead of being a fictional invention. This society was interesting, and it was certainly different from the medieval European setting often used in fantasy novels.
The Princes of the Golden Cage is by no means an exceptional work of literature with well written prose and intelligent characters. It is, however, light and fun reading, and it was one of those books that kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next in spite of its many flaws.
The next book in the series, The King’s Daughters, is supposed to be out in the summer of 2008.
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