Read The Goblin Emperor for:
* old-school fantasy world with goblins and elves
* a feel good story of doing the right thing against all odds
* a standalone fantasy without a stack of sequels
* just a touch of steampunk
The Goblin Emperor
Katherine Addison (2014)
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.
My result: Recommended
The full book review
The Goblin Emperor is a nostalgic throwback to earlier styles of fantasy, but manages to avoid cliches and deliver a satisfying story. The story feels familiar: a half-goblin inherits the elven throne, and is immersed in a complex political and social structure he barely understands. Maia is determined to be the best leader he can be, and a better ruler than his father was. But his parliament and courtiers mistake inexperience for stupidity, and think him a tool to be used and manipulated for their convenience.
Strong world-building leads to a challenging read. There’s a lot of information to absorb, but it’s delivered in character and in context. There are few info dumps. The intricate naming system can be hard to follow, but the occasional moment of confusion adds to the story. It echoes Maia’s story perfectly, as he’s trying desperately to keep up and cover his own confusion. (I recommend reading the appendix on grammar. It explains gendered name endings and the conversational use of titles, and keep you on the same level with Maia.)
Maia is a strong, sympathetic narrator, and a large part of The Goblin Emperor‘s success. The story sticks tightly to him, and keeps the plot from wandering. Maia’s warmth and desire to do the right thing for his people make you root for him immediately. In a genre that’s grown very dark, it’s a reminder of the sense of wonder and optimism that’s missing from so many recent works. Maia’s story is satisfying, with an ending that will make you feel hopeful.
The Goblin Emperor is something truly remarkable: a standalone fantasy novel. In less than 500 pages, it delivers a fantasy world as rich and complex as any. It’s a throwback to an earlier style of fantasy, with a satisfying story and characters you will actually like. Don’t miss it.
If you like The Goblin Emperor
- You will also enjoy:
- The Queen of the Tearling – An inexperienced girl ascends to the throne to become a great leader, or die trying.
- Stolen Songbird – This YA fantasy features trolls, magic and fairies in intricate balance, with a fight to do what’s right and a bit of romance.
- City of Stairs – Complex world-building and political structure in a story that stays anchored by a strong protagonist.
- Range of Ghosts – Feel good fantasy with an uplifting story and characters you actually like. Read my review!