Review│The Goblin Emperor

the goblin emperorAuthor: Katherine Addison // First published:  April 2014 // Genre: Fantasy
This edition: 432 pages, published in April 2014 by Tor Books // Get it @TheBookDepository

Read in April 2015

Read as the March book of the month for The Sword and Laser book club.
This book is a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2014) and a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015).

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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.

My thoughts

What is it with me and SFF names? My brain cannot process them. It is very inconvenient!

This… was not exactly what I expected… I thought there would be more “fantasy” aspects to it, given that there are elves, and goblins, and such. Turns out it is a very politically driven story that happen to feature elves and goblins as the inhabitants of this world, but that’s about it. Oh no, there is also something going on with their ears. They obviously have goblin/elf ears, and so it is a device to show their emotions (like cats or horses if you will).

I listened to a Sword and Laser podcast in which the author was interviewed, and when they asked her about the fantasy element (which is almost non-existent), she just said that she wanted to write about basically medieval times with aircrafts, and because she was too lazy to do the research to make it a historical fiction, she just decided to make it a fantasy so that she could get away with more things. I’m not sure I like that. For the people who are really into the fantasy genre, it feels like a let down because apart from the ear thing, there’s really no element of fantasy.

Okay, so this guy, Maia (which confused the hell out of me in the first chapters, because I don’t know in the rest of the world, but in France it’s a girl’s name), is the son of the Emperor (an elf) and an ex-wife (now dead) of his (a goblin). Given that he is a kind of half-breed, or mixed race, or whatever you want to call it, he has been exiled very very far from the Emperor’s palace, and he has received NO education whatsoever as to how to behave in court. But fate comes in the way and while on a trip, the Emperor and all his potential heirs die in a aircraft crash. Maia being the sole heir left, he has to step up and become Emperor.

So let’s recap: estranged son of the Emperor, knows nothing of court’s life or politics, but ends up Emperor. The kid should face some serious obstacles and make a lot of mistakes… Right?
You are wrong my friend. For some reason, he deals with it extremely well, is surrounded by very nice people who like him instantly, and he manages to make himself and his unconventional decisions respected. Who’d a thunk?

If you want a book that is plot driven, just keep walking. Nothing happens in this book. He tries to build a bridge at some point and he has to face one major event, other than that… Nothing much.
I could say that it is rather a character driven story, but I can’t, because I couldn’t make sense of who was whom because of their names, and so I can’t tell you if there was much character development.

My rating:

I’m feeling generous, I’ll give The Goblin Emperor 2.5/5 stars. There were some enjoyable parts, but for the most of it, it felt like I was on auto-pilot and wasn’t engaged into it. The writing was quite good though, and even though it was a little bit confusing in the beginning, I liked the fact that the characters use the Royal We, or thee/thou depending on the context.

The more political aspect of the book just did not appeal to me, but I know that a lot of people actually enjoyed this book quite a lot (and it has to be good, otherwise it wouldn’t be nominated for 2 major book awards).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *