The Princes Of The Golden Cage
by Nathalie Mallet
Cover Artist: Gabrielle Portal
Review by Colleen Cahill
Night Shade Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597800907
Date: 15 August 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
There are many fairy tales of trapped princesses: trapped in towers, in spells or even on glass mountains. Princes rarely find themselves in this scenario, which is one of the things that makes Nathalie Mallet's The Princes of the Golden Cage so refreshing. In this Arabian-styled fantasy, it is the sons of the Sultan who are kept in the golden Cage, and although it is luxurious, the Cage is also deadly, both from human scheming and magical forces.
Amir is one of the 117 Princes who live in the Kapisi Palace's Cage. He explains this interesting situation:
The Kafes or Cage System—which entailed locking all princes inside one section of the palace until one was crowned as the next ruler—had been put in place by my great-great-grandfather, Sultan Mudel Ban II, after his numerous sons ripped the kingdom of Telfar apart in a bloody fratricidal war.This prison might keep the Princes from ravaging the country, but it does little to keep them from plotting against each other. Amir, a bookish fellow who stays out of his siblings way, has no designs on the throne and only craves freedom to explore the outside world. When his brothers begin dying each full moon, leaving behind a corpse that resembles "a dried-up piece of meat", Amir is dragged into the mystery as he the most scholarly of the Princes. Even though the servants gossip of his dark powers, Amir is a man of science who does not believe some occult force could be involved in the murders. Reluctantly, he joins forces with his brother Erik, a prince by a Nordic bride, to try to expose the silent killer. It soon becomes clear that the Princes did not die from poison, but a magical being, one that is somehow tied to the Sultan. Things become more complex when Princess Eva of Sorvinka arrives, as she will be the wife of the next Sultan and this new prize increases tensions in the Cage to an even higher level.
This book has a lot of elements: there is the Arabic world with princes trapped in a pressure cooker, the mystery of the diabolic murderer and Amir's first steps of reaching out to others and learning that some people can be trusted. Mallet does a superb job of combining these bits into a beautifully integrated work. A complex character, Amir is proud of his scholarship and treasures books, but slowly comes to realize that he cannot live alone and only a friend can help him survive the emotional stress of living in the Cage. Isolation might give him some protection, but it comes at a price.
The book has a loose ending and I am seeing hints on the Internet that another volume might be out in 2008. This is a fun read, full of lively characters and absorbing plot twists; I am certainly looking forward a sequel. No need for you to wait for the second book: I recommend getting The Princes of the Golden Cage and enjoying it today.