Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: high fantasy.
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.
I’ve had The Goblin Emperor on my to-be-read list for a while now and I finally decided to give it a go, partly because I included it on my Summer TBR list and I like crossing things off lists. It makes me very, very happy that it is a standalone novel and that reading it doesn’t mean I’m in for six more 500-page books. (I’m slightly disillusioned by series these days, *sigh*.)
I usually start with the good things in a book because it’s just more optimistic, but here I’ll go with the bad first because the good definitely wins (which I totally mistyped weens right now) over the bad. So. The bad things.
I pity the poor audiobook narrator. Look, I know it’s a fantasy world so the author has the right to do anything she wants, but the names (both character and place names) were so hard to keep track of. I have to say that my paperback version included a pronunciation guide and a list of weird expressions at the end, but I didn’t find it until I had already finished the book because I have this irrational fear of paging through to the end of the book (*whispers* I hate spoilers). So I never check if there’s a guide like that at the end.
It’s not just that the names were difficult to pronounce – each character is called about four different names, depending on the social situation, their place in a family, function at court, and also gender. It was very confusing but I kind of got used to it by the end.
The other thing that I have to say is that if you dislike courtly/political intrigue, this might not be the book for you. It took me a while to really get into the story because all the relations were so bewildering and convoluted, but then that’s exactly the point: Maia, the main character, is thrown into this horrible situation where he’s expected to run a nation with zero experience. So the confusion I felt was probably nothing compared to what he felt at being thrust into this role.
And that’s it. Everything else was really, really well done. You can see that these two points didn’t bother me all that much – I only removed half a heart/star. :)
The main reason I loved this book so much is Maia. He is the best leading character I have read in a long time. He is such a good guy! I can only compare him to Julius, who is also adorable. Maia is just so inherently good despite the unhappy childhood he’s had, he is trusting and smart – and I wasn’t even bothered by his occasional naïveté, because it definitely made sense for a country-bred half-goblin to be naïve sometimes. His self-doubt was heartbreaking at times, especially because I just felt how he must have suffered as a kid to have gained such a poor opinion of himself.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters. There are a lot of them and while Maia was hated by some for the simple fact that he became emperor, he really insipired loyalty in others. The secondary characters were well written and fleshed-out, so I liked them despite having trouble with their names.
The pace of the story really picks up in the second half of the book. The first half encompasses the events of a week or so – the death of Maia’s father and his older half-brothers, Maia’s arrival at court, coronation, etc – so it’s very detailed and there’s a lot of world-building and explaining (though I never felt bored, there aren’t any massive info dumps if that’s what you’re worried about). But the schemes and plots really come into play in the second part of the book, so I got sucked into the story. I read the last 150 pages in a single evening, unable to put the book down.
I think this is one of those books that benefits from being read in a short amount of time, instead of being stretched over several weeks, for example. I think it would be even harder to keep track of all the names and relationships. So I’m glad I took the time to read it in a relatively short period of time, I think it made me like it even better! I’ll definitely be looking out for Addison’s next book (I know she writes under another name as well, so I might even check those out).
Have you read The Goblin Emperor? What did you think?
Do you like courtly intrigue or do you prefer quest-oriented fantasy?
I’d love to hear from you! :)