The Princes of the Golden Cage - A Review

Princes of the Golden Cage
Night Shade Books, 320 pages

I saw a review on a writer's blog or website and was intrigued, especially as the general idea here - that of Arabic princes locked up in a cage - is based on historical fact.

The story, though, is pure fiction.

Prince Amir lives in luxury with the rest of his brothers, except that they can't leave the premises. Then, once his father decides on his heir, the rest are free to go - that is, the rest will be killed. After all, who needs the rest of them?

While Amir's father is off doing what sultans usually do, his sons are fighting it out among themselves, with their positions as favored to be the heir posted for all to see.

Amir, alas, is well down the line, and he doesn't mind it in the least. He can handle a sword pretty well, but he's decided to keep away from all but two of his brothers. He keeps himself entertained with books, especially with books on magic, and working on alchemical experiments.

Living the life of a monk, Amir's life is upset when one of his brothers is murdered in a strange way; it looks as if it has dark magic written over it, something which the Grand Vizier thinks Amir might be able to figure out.

Or is Amir being looked at as the murderer precisely because of those experiments?

He meets up with one of his blonde brothers, Erik, after the first murder, but Amir cannot figure out what is going on or how to stop the murderer; his brothers are dropping like dead flies.

Romance comes into it when Amir picks up something of Erik's, a locket with a picture of a fair-haired maiden inside. Amir is almost instantly smitten with her, yet dismisses himself as a suitor because he is so far down the heir line; she is betrothed to the next Sultan.

Amir and his brothers have never been outside the palace, aka the cage. Will Amir die with the rest of them without tasting freedom?

I found this an enjoyable read. Parts were tedious, but the story moved along at a decent clip. I found Amir to be an interesting character - a bookworm with a bit of a temper (at times). What endeared me even more was how he cared for the two brothers nearest him, Mir and Jafer, both of whom seemed to be insane. Amir was afraid one of his other brothers would do them harm, so he usually would get food with them, and talk to them...when they would allow him to do so.

What brings this book down slightly might just be personal irritations, but they are irritations nonetheless. There were a lot of run-on sentences. While I don't mind run-ons from time to time, I just felt there were too many so that my eyes would glaze. (There must been quite a few for me to remember them, unfortunately.) Fortunately, this was not an ongoing problem, just one that seemed to crop up from time to time.

The other irritation were the obvious questions not ending in question marks. I'll admit that that's nitpicky. But it brought me out the story anyway, to the point where I'd say, "Question mark, question mark!" Either the author has something against using question marks (which I doubt) or maybe her editor just missed this. I can't imagine that most of those question were actually statements made by different characters. (Sure, I get that questions can be said in such a way that they sound more like statements, like when a character is pissed off at someone.) Again, that I noticed it means that maybe the editing was off.

That's not to take away from this story, however. I found the story and characters interesting, and look forward to the next in this trilogy (seems like most fantasies are trilogies now-a-days).

Anyway, worth a looksee.

~Nancy Beck