Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Published:  April 1st 2014 by Tor Books
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Goodreads Summary: 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.


Even before I started The Goblin Emperor, I knew I would like it. Don’t ask me why but I had this feeling that told it would be a winner, what I didn’t realize is how much I would love that damn book.

What if the ugly little duckling of a royal family suddenly and unexpectedly became...emperor? That’s the story in a nutshell.

One day, Maia an inexperienced 18-year-old, who lives in a remote town, learns that his father and elder brothers have died in an accident and that he’s now emperor. Nobody would have thought that he could rise so high, Maia included since he’s always been the emperor’s most hated son. 

And so poor little Maia, who’s never been to court embark on an epic journey to keep his throne and his life. Before his sudden rise to the top of the world, Maia was living with his cousin Setheris in a backward, isolated place. This cousin of his never showed him any love, constantly brutalised him physically and ridiculed him morally. Besides, as the reader quickly find out, Setheris barely educated his cousin, a fact that that will greatly penalise the skinny goblin in his new post.

It was literally impossible not to root for Maia. He’s the outsider, the one nobody believes in and in spite of that he remains such a sweet person. The main thing that characterise Maia is his kindness and forgiveness. However, Katherine Addison (an alias of author Sarah Monette) is a smart author, she doesn’t make her hero a martyr and any nonsense like that. Maia has his moment of pettiness, he doubts himself, he gets scared and he can be awkward. All that to say, that he’s far from flawless.

Another thing that I appreciated about Addison is that she avoided silly trap and shortcuts. Maia is a smart lad, but he doesn’t suddenly become a political genius when he starts wearing the mantle of emperor. As a matter of fact, there are a huge number of things he doesn’t know and he often needs the help of his secretary Csevet or other people to help him fulfil his duties. There’s no ex deux machine or special power in this story.

As I mentioned, at the beginning of this review Maia is inexperienced. This word didn’t only apply to politic. Bluntly said, Maia is a virgin and through it’s never properly said, I suppose that’s his love live has always been non-existent. At some point, I really thought that there would a I-will-break-every-rules-for-that-girl or a I-can’t-live-without-her sort of thing. But no, not at all. I’ll give you a glimpse of how the romance I'm referring to ends:

“She was offering, but Maia had no idea how to take. He cringed from the thought of his own awkwardness and knew he would never be able to go through with it—and that would be far more humiliating than simply turning her down now.

The silence had grown long enough to be uncomfortable, but he managed to say, “No, thank you,” in a steady, unbothered voice.”

Eugh, awkward much?

An emperor can’t really have friends, therefore the conversations between Maia and those in his service (serveants, guards, secreaties…etc) can be somewhat restricted. However, I was always able to get a good glimpse of the secondary characters’ personalities and I must tell you guys, that’s there’re all adorable in their own way.

Despite all the praise, there are a few negative points to The Goblin Emperor. First off, this book is a sort of coming of age based around politics. There isn’t really any action as such, so if you love fight scenes and fast moving stories and if political intrigues isn’t your thing, well you should think twice before opening this novel. I personally seriously love political intrigues, so it was perfect for me.

Also, most of the character’s names are long and complicated. Sometimes, I had to think a little in order to remember which character they were talking about. There’s a glossary at the end, though. Strangely, even though names are very fantasy like, magic is hinted at but practically non-existent in the story.

And last but not least, the language in the story is a bit peculiar. Characters can use “we” or “I” to speak depending on the level of formality they want to employ. Sometimes, things like this “thee” (Middle English?) appears as well but almost only when Maia is speaking to himself. At first I thought I would be thrown off by the language, but I quickly got the gist of it.

The Goblin Emperor is one of the best book I’ve read in 2015, so as you would have guessed, I highly recommend it.


  1. The political intrigue and the world sound so interesting *_* Can't wait to read those tense moments. Great review!

  2. Thank you! You absolutly need to read this book, lol! I was genuinely amazed.


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