Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk

Rating: 3/5


This book was a very pleasant surprise. The Goblin Emperor is the first published book by author Katherine Addison and I must say I found it intriguing and fresh.

It was probably fresh to me because I do not normally ready such fantasy heavy novels such as this one, but it was also fresh because the focus of the entire story was not what one would expect. With the popularity of dystopias and corrupt government plots Addison’s Goblin Emperor is refreshing.

The Goblin Emperor’s synopsis on Goodreads reads as follows:

 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

Now, you might be thinking, there have been stories like this before! Not so.

Overnight, Maia’s life is turned upside down. He skyrockets to the top of society after being treated like the lowliest of scum beneath his caregiver Uncle’s boot. He becomes Emperor, thus thrown into a position to make a head-spinning amount of decisions. He must pick an Empress, figure out how his father and half-brothers’ accident happened, and navigate court life.

Unlike the usual low society person becoming Prince/King/High society characters, Maia does not fumble through how to act like a royal. He does have basic etiquette and he is of at least a standard education. What is most surprising about Maia is his attitude. One would think that a cast out son, abused by his uncle, and still mourning the loss of his mother from a young age, would be filled with bitterness and fury. While the narrator gives the reader glimpses of Maia’s deep sorrow and the lack of love he has for a father he never knew, the reader also sees how Maia aims to right what he considers wrong. He is a genuinely good character.

Maia isn’t the only good character and he isn’t the only character with diverse feelings and multiple dimensions. Addison has created a colorful cast, literally colorful, that serves to enhance the reality of what an Emperor’s life would be like. Think Tudors, Reign, Borgias, or any other show about the double talk, two faced, strained relationships, and betrayal of royalty and you will have a pretty good picture of what Maia steps into when he becomes Emperor.

If you want to add Game of Thrones to that list then think again. Where Game of Thrones is dark, The Goblin Emperor is light. If I had to pick a theme in this book to focus on it would be that where good is sought out it will be found.

Addison’s writing is well paced and wittily constructed. The description of her goblin/elvin/ creatures world is beautiful. The setting is a mix of renaissance era, fantasy races, and steampunk devices. It’s fun and interesting.

A personal difficulty I had with this book was the names and language of the Elvin race. Don’t worry; you aren’t going to be reading half of this book in Elvish like Lord of the Rings. No, there’s none of that. But there are names, titles, regions, and events that are referenced to in this different language and I found it difficult to stumble through them. Of course, I do recognize this as a difficulty of my own and someone else may not have a problem at all with them. After all, I was the kid who read Harry Potter and called Hermoine Her-moan until I saw the first movie. It’s easy to come up with nicknames for the characters and the most important characters on the scene are referenced by one name or their first name. It becomes easier throughout the book to discern who is who.

If you enjoy books that focus on the intricacies of court life, family melodramas, and personal triumph then I’m sure you’d enjoy The Goblin Emperor. I am definitely going to be keeping my eye on Katherine Addison as her writing was excellent in bringing this story to life.

This book will be available April 1, 2014. I would like to thank Tor books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. And I hope you feel I gave you an honest, thorough review (without any spoilers of course) of the book.

You can read the first two chapters of The Goblin Emperor from her website! Go check it out!

Check out Katherine Addison: Here

Check out  The Goblin Emperor: Here

Join me in reading on Goodreads: Here


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