“Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.”First line in The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Author: Katherine Addison
Published: April 1st, 2014
Series: The Goblin Emperor #1
Buzzwords: Political intrigue, soft main character, non-human characters
Synopsis: 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.
It’s been a long while since I wrote a dedicated review of a book but I just need to talk about this book!
Firstly, I think I can safely say that The Goblin Emperor is the most political book I’ve ever read so I obviously loved every second of it. You really gotta love political intrigue to find it even remotely interesting because while the book does have other selling points, everything is steeped in political maneuverings.
The language in the book is extremely formal and on the old-fashioned side (you’ll be reading words like “thyself” and “canst”) which, mixed with the political themes and the many (!!) character names, can make it feel a bit dry. However, what brightens everything up is the main character Maia. Maia is half-goblin but also the son of the elf Emperor despite living most of his life away from court because his father hates his very existence. Oh, and he lives with an older cousin who is straight-up abusive. But Maia still becomes Emperor when his father and all his brothers die in the same airship accident. And he is completely unprepared for it.
The book is about Maia learning the ropes of being Emperor while defending himself against enemies who don’t think a half-goblin should rule the Elflands. Maia needs to learn fast and also find out how to be himself and be happy because it turns out that being Emperor is a very lonely experience.
What really made me love Maia was his softness. He is truly the kind of character you just constantly find yourself wanting to hug because he’s just too precious. And also quite tortured which made it feel like I was being tortured myself. I can’t stress it enough how much I love to read about such characters.
Another one of those selling points I talked about is the book’s social commentary. It’s rather subtle which I really like so I’ll also be subtle and say that elves are described as pale while goblins are “darker-skinned”. Also, while it is set in a fictional steampunk-like world, there’s also some commentary on women’s status which is more reminiscent of medieval times.
So who do I recommend this for? Experienced adult fantasy readers who are genuinely confused when they hear a book being criticized for being TOO political as if that’s a bad thing. If you’re then also on the lookout for single POV adult fantasy books and absolutely adore a soft but tortured main character, you need to read The Goblin Emperor instantly!