Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Title: The Goblin Emperor
Author: Katherine Addison
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Length: 483 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

I have seen people RAVING about this book for years. And you know what? They’re all 100% right — The Goblin Emperor is amazing!

Maia, at age 18, has spent the last ten years of his life in exile, raised by his cousin, a cruel man who resents Maia and his role as Maia’s guardian. Maia’s mother was the 4th wife of the emperor, but he didn’t care for her and sent her away almost immediately. Maia has met his father exactly once in his life, at his mother’s funeral.

All this changes when a messenger arrives to inform Maia that his father and his brothers have all died in an airship crash. Maia is now the sole surviving descendant of the emperor… making him the new emperor. And he’s totally unprepared.

What follows is a whirlwind for us as readers as well as for Maia, as his life is turned completely upside down. He’s thrust into the role of emperor and introduced to court life, with its power plays, obsequiousness, and scheming. There are a vast number of people he’s expected to know, rituals to follow, and decisions to make.

What’s more, it means that Maia will never know a moment of solitude ever again. He is constantly accompanied by his personal guards, has a household who dress and feed him, and his every moment is scheduled down to the second, it seems. He is dressed in fine garments, adorned with the crown jewels, and put on display for formal events and ceremonies — and he has to get through it all without letting anyone see how scared and unprepared he is.

I loved, loved, loved this book, although at the beginning, I was afraid it was going to break my brain. This is not an easy book.

Author Katherine Addison has pulled off an incredible feat of world-building, creating a language and political system that are intricate and hard to follow, but which make their own sort of sense once you get the rhythm of it all.

Thankfully, there’s a guide to grammar, people, and places at the back of the book — although I admit that when I first saw this, I felt completely overwhelmed.

There are tons of names and families and relationships to keep track of, plus it helps to understand the forms of address:

Of course, I had to go looking for Goblin Emperor fan art, and fell down the rabbit hole for a while. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

https://twitter.com/AceArt3mis/status/1104470827205083137/photo/1
https://www.deviantart.com/shiftingpath/art/Winternight-582912404
Found on multiple Pinterest boards – source not identified

I simply can’t say enough good things about The Goblin Emperor! Be warned — this is not an easy read. Absolute attention is required, or you’re likely to drown in the sea of names and places and titles and concepts that are all completely new. It all makes total sense once you get into it, but at the beginning, I was definitely struggling to stay afloat.

Is The Goblin Emperor worth the effort? Absolutely! It’s a well-crafted high fantasy story, with a world that follows its own internal logic and rules, and a lead character — Maia Drazhar, of the house Drazahada (the ruling house of the Ethuveraz (Elflands)), otherwise known as His Serenity Edrehasivar VII — who is vulnerable, kind, inquisitive, and bold in his own quiet way.

Now that I’ve read this amazing book once, I know I’ll want to read it again. The first read requires a lot of learning, figuring out what this world is about, how the names and titles work, how different people connect. Now that I’ve got it, I’d love to experience it all over again, this time concentrating more on the nuances of the story and the character development. Maybe audiobook for a re-read?

Consider me fully and completely on the Goblin Emperor bandwagon! Now I know why so many people consider it a favorite. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet… well, jump in! It’s glorious.

PS – Added after the fact: I’d love to see a graphic novel adaptation of The Goblin Emperor!

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

  1. I loved this book, too! I am glad, though, that I downloaded the audiobook, because I would have gotten lost in the names straightaway. But I quickly grew to love Maia; his struggle to find his own identify and heal from neglect and abuse was just so real and heartbreaking. I am planning to reread this soon. There is apparently a sequel in the works, and it will hopefully be out next year.

    • Oh yes, I felt so sad and heartbroken for Maia and all the pain that he carries with him. Interesting about the sequel — I see it listed on Goodreads as being announced, but on the author’s FAQ page, she says there isn’t going to be a sequel, but possibly a book set in the same world at some point. She has a new book coming out in June! I’m excited to read it.

    • Ooh, I hope you read it! And yeah, I love looking at fan art for some of my favorite books and series. There are some seriously talented people out there!

    • Jess, I think you’re one of the people who raved about this book so much that I was convinced I needed it in my life. 🙂 So thank you!! Maia is amazing. I will absolutely want to keep coming back to this book!

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