The Gist: Prince Amir is one of the many sons of the Sultan of the Ban Dynasty. He lives with his other brothers in the Kapisi Palace as a prisoner. All of the princes are locked in one section of the palace until one is crowned as the next ruler. The brothers vie for the number one position and do what they can to cull the completion. So Amir has chosen a life of solitude and scholarly study in his far tower of the palace, spending his days reading, dabbling in alchemy and shadow fencing to keep up his swordsmanship skills.
Amir's life takes a twist when one of his brothers appears to have been murdered by black sorcery. The vizier knows Amir has an extensive library and knowledge of the blacker arts so he summons Amir to help with the investigation, not to mention Amir himself being a suspect for this crime.
Amir scoffs at the notion that sorcery is involved and he feels that scientific evidence and rational thinking will solve this mystery, after all it's not uncommon for the princes to eliminate their competition.
During his investigation Amir befriend one of his first suspects, his brother Prince Erik. Amir has a bit of a hard time getting used to looking at one of his brothers as someone he can trust since usually his brothers are out to stifle any competition.
Amir also crosses paths with the beautiful and exotic Princess Eva, who has come to the palace from a far away land, to marry the next Sultan.
So Amir has to get the girl, stop the murders, clear his own name in the murders, and somehow not get killed in the entire process. PHEW! Who said being a prince was a life of leisure?
The Good: This book is a fun, quick read. It's a murder mystery with a fantasy backdrop. I think of it as a younger Sherlock Holmes set in the Arabian Nights universe.
There are some good twists and turns in the story and a couple of things caught me off guard.
The descriptions of the palace and its environs are nicely descriptive and I could easily see them in my mind.
The Bad: The story starts out with a bang but then seems to drag down for a bit before ramping up again. So I felt it has a sort of a weird pacing.
There were times when the characters are annoying and you just wanted to slap them, especially Amir in the beginning with his moping/sulking/brooding. If I wanted brooding I'd watch some Angel on DVD.
The Ugly: Nothing ugly to report!
The Princes of the Golden Cage is a good little read. It's not an uber mystery and it's not an epic fantasy but it's a nice amalgam of both. After the story gets moving along there are some interesting twists and turns with some not so typical resolutions. There are a nice variety of characters and the settings are gorgeous in my mind's eye. I'm looking forward to the sequel which should be coming out in the summer of 2008.
The Princes of the Golden Cage by Nathalie Mallet
Published by: Night Shade Books (Aug 22, 2007)