I am not going to lie to you: in The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, the words “thy” and “thou” show up with some frequency. Look past this. Solider on. It is worth it. The Goblin Emperor is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years.
Maia is his father’s unwanted fourth son, the only child of a loveless and ill-advised marriage between an elf and a goblin. He’s spent most of his life living away from the rest of his family – until they all die in a horrible accident. Did I mention that Maia’s father was the Emperor? Well, Maia is emperor now – the untrained, unprepared, reluctant emperor of all the Elflands. And some of his subjects are none too happy about having a half-goblin sovereign.
What follows is part coming of age, part mystery, part fish-out-of-water, and a whole lot of court intrigue. Maia must learn to govern, deal with his recalcitrant advisers, and investigate his father’s death – which may not have been an accident after all. Slowly he learns how to build alliances and trust himself. The lynchpin of the novel is Maia himself, who is so sweet, earnest, and well-intentioned that he wins over both his people and the reader.
In some ways, Maia is almost too good. In a world with strict class structures and gender expectations, he is infinitely egalitarian. Whether through basic decency or naivety, Maia forgoes convention over and over again.
I am in the habit of dragging my sister into a library, loading her arms with books, and whispering (because it is a library) “Read these!” before bounding away to find yet more books to bury her under. Shortly after I shoved The Goblin Emperor at her, I received an email that said “I think it’s been forever since I was so genuinely pleased at a developing romance as I was with Maia and [spoiler removed].” And I agree. Maia’s relationship with his love interest develops in a natural and charming way. I wish they had more
scenes together. I feel that way about a lot of characters – they’re engaging, funny, and real.
By the end of the book, all I wanted was more time with these characters. And there isn’t a better recommendation than that.
The Goblin Emperor is available on our Kindles.
Read if you like: politics, complicated families, underdogs.
Avoid if you don’t like: complicated naming structures, made up words, and other fantasy trappings.
-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who really wants a sequel, and is really sad the author has said there won’t be one).