Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison [Book Review]
Goblin Emperor is by far the best single point of view political intrigue story I’ve read. It’s also up there as one of the best fantasy books I’ve read. The primary story line in Goblin Emperor is about imperial court intrigue as seen from the point of view of an unexpected emperor.
The Goblin Emperor
The whole of Goblin Emperor is told in a single first person point of view by Maia, the fourth son of the Emperor and the product of a mixed marriage. Not pleasing to the emperor Maia was exiled to a remote country manor to be brought up by a cousin when his mother died. Several years later his father and three elder brothers are killed in an airship crash. Maia unexpectedly becomes the emperor, without the education in how the court works or any exposure to it.
Half elf and half goblin, Maia is the goblin emperor of the elves. This in itself causes problems for Maia. The world is a steampunk one, but you could be forgiven for not quite noticing because the imperial court is bound in ancient protocols and lives in a non technical sort of way.
Maia, the Goblin Emperor, represents a progressive threat to the established order at court. While uneducated in court he is not stupid, and his erstwhile mentor has trained some useful traits into Maia through his unthinking cruelty. Maia is adept at reading people and looking for their angles. He doesn’t see all of it coming, but he is good at reacting when he needs to.
The world of the Goblin Emperor is well created. There’s a steampunk feel to it and there are hints of unseen depths in the threads through the story. This impressive detail is borne out with the Q&A I read on the author’s website after I was finished reading. Outside the rarefied court there is an industrial world with social problems and agitators plotting revolution. Mostly this is just glimpsed, but it’s enough to make me want more in this setting.
That said the story of the Goblin Emperor is complete. The ending leaves little room for a sequel. It was a very good ending and I found it satisfying.