The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb: The youngest,
half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile,
distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses
it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed
in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only
surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court
politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that
whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on
his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry
favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his
new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him,
offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown
conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as
the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a
single friend... and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also
vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his
throne – or his life.
This exciting fantasy novel, set against
the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable
debut for a great new talent.
2015 Hugo Nominee.
This was a story that drew me in and suddenly I'm done with the book. There are no epic battles, no cross country chase scenes, no mano a mano duels, no blustering rages wielding a massive sword. It's one small half goblin-half elven boy who finds himself suddenly thrust into the seat of the Elven Empire without a clue of what he should do, surrounded by people he doesn't know, in a castle he barely remembers.
Which, really, doesn't sound all that interesting on the surface. Just another rags to riches story. But for some reason, this was different. Perhaps it was a combination of the world setting (a goblin/elven world) in a steampunk setting (again, not my favorite, but it worked), written with a deftness that made the words just flow.
So, setting. It's a "steampunk" setting but subtly so - there are airships to convey people to and fro, and this plays a part in establishing the plot, but once that's done, the steampunk-ness takes a back seat. The reader does see a bit more when the clockwork people present their bridge idea, but that was about it.
Plot. As I mentioned above, this is a story about Maia. The fourth son of the elvish Emperor, banished to some remote fortress with a guardian after the death of his goblin mother when he was eight. The Guardian has been taking his anger out on Maia the last 10 years, something which Maia cannot forgive him for.
Maia's assent ion to the throne is sudden and the first thing that happens in the book. The rest of the story is about Maia coming to terms with the loss of a Father he didn't know, a Mother he desperately misses, betrayal on numerous sides, and the forging of friendships in a court where he feels desperately alone. In some ways, this is a coming of age book, but sans the epic quests we usually see in high fantasy. Which was greatly appreciated.
My main complaint with the book was actually in the names of people and things. I'm not a fan of long names, and tend to mentally shorten them right of the bat. It also took me a while to figure out the honorifics being used - not realizing there was an appendix at the end of the book that explained it all. That would have been nice at the beginning.
Overall, a solid absorbing read with beautiful world building and solid character development.
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