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.This was my first read for 2008. One of the books that I had wanted to read in 2007, I just never found the time for it, so I am happy to start off the year with such a promising talent. The Princes of the Golden Cage was Nathalie Mallet's debut novel, and it was wonderfully written. It is an interesting mesh of fantasy, history, and the modern world that works very well for the novel. While there are supernatural elements to this novel, it could easily be historical fiction. At the core, it is a novel about a young man who, while born to noble blood, is a prisioner. All of his brothers are held in golden cages until their father dies and an heir ascends the throne as the next sultan. There is sword-play, a harem, a sultan who is allowed to take multiple wives, lots of off-spring, and a battle to be the one that is chosen as heir. When you look at it like that, it can almost be something occurred historically.
Amir, the main character, is a bit of a skeptic. When his brothers begin dying by unnatural means, it takes a great deal for him to believe that it might be supernatural. He has no desire to have the throne for himself, so he keeps a low profile so that his other brothers do not look upon him as a threat. He looks after his two 'sick' brothers, but otherwise leads a very solitary existence. Then, he meets Erik. Erik has kept a low profile as well, and until the killings begin and he shows himself to Amir, he was lost in the cages with very few people being aware of who he was. Amir is very untrusting and believes that Erik is a bit too trusting, so it makes for an interesting friendship. They are brothers, but as different as night and day. They really off-set each other in the novel.
I would not say that the book dragged, but it did have a bit of a slow beginning, so I was very surprised when I hit the last hundred pages and found that I was too engrossed in the book to put it down. Other novels that I read have much more action in them, but there was something compelling about this story. There was an air of mystery to it, and I found that I wanted to get to the end to see how it was all going to play out. Some of the surprises I had figured out, but other things that happened at the end surprised me. There were also a few moments where the author almost tricked me into thinking my assumptions were false, before verifying them as the truth. I like that about a novel, as I tend to at least have an idea where a novel is going.
While this book follows mostly male characters, it does have very intriguing women in supporting roles. To be anything else would not have worked for the overall idea of the novel, so it worked well. I think the sequel could very well have the female characters develop more, so I will be interested to see where the story goes next. I was not even aware this was the first book to anything until I got near the end, the book says nothing about being a series or anything, so that was a nice surprise. In the summer, I will be able to see what is going to happen next. I have already added it to my wish list.
I recommend this novel. This also completes book one for the Themed Reading Challenge, as the author is from Canada. I also want to thank Remy for sending me this book! Fatherhood has taken him away from blogland a lot lately, but she is so cute, so who can blame him!