The Goblin Emperor

As I indicated on my Facebook page I really liked this book.  Primarily because it was a character study and I read for the people not for the problem.  Katherine Addison evokes the insecurities of an 18 year old who is suddenly thrust into the role of ruler when his father and half-brothers are all killed.  The elven/goblin culture is fascinating with a mix of swords and airships and there is enough touch of archaic language to ground you in the world without making it difficult to read.

There are two things in particular that I truly appreciated in this book.  The first is Maia’s acceptance that he must marry and he must marry a woman of appropriate birth and rank.  The search for a bride is handled by his secretary without any sentimentality.  Addison is willing to ignore modern conventions and attitudes when presenting her culture and the duties of a ruler.




I also loved the fact that the big win in the book is managing to build a bridge.  That’s it.  The kingdom is not threatened by a great evil, the world isn’t about to end if Maia doesn’t get up to speed and become a warrior king.  There are threats against the emperor because he is viewed as unworthy and unprepared (which is true), but he doesn’t save himself by turning into an action hero.  In one instance he is clever  and in the other he is saved by his guard.

Ever since Thor: The Dark World I’ve become ever more disgusted with the need to ramp up the stakes to outlandish levels.  In The Dark World the Dark Elves want to destroy the whole damn universe.  So where do you go from there?  Would it be so terrible to tell a small, simple story with deeply personal stakes that doesn’t require New York, the planet, the galaxy or the universe to be threatened?


8 Responses to The Goblin Emperor

  • Paul (@princejvstin) says:

    So where do you go from there? Would it be so terrible to tell a small, simple story with deeply personal stakes that doesn’t require New York, the planet, the galaxy or the universe to be threatened?

    Not so terrible. Stakes don’t always have to be cosmic.

  • I enjoyed – well, perhaps appreciated is a better word – the complexity of court life for Maia, and all the social mores and protocols he had to endure (and in some amazing cases, merely embraced because it was familiar and expected – which you touch upon, Melinda). It was mind boggling! But so well and consistently realized that one really got the sense of just how much Maia was up against.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      That’s one of the things I loved was the complexity and the rigid protocol of court. Basically Maia wasn’t going to have a life beyond the confines of his own head, and I found that moving and powerful. Especially his acceptance of his duty and sense of service to his people. It actually made me thing a lot about my young Infanta, the female protagonist of my space opera. I have the advantage that I’m going to keep daddy on the throne for quite awhile, but she will certainly be part of many decisions and see the complexities.

  • Noblehunter says:

    I was quite fond of seeing an imperial, even Byzantine, court that’s actually functional. It seems like courts as elaborate as the elvish court are always decadent and filled with venal and corrupt antagonists. Maia’s court actually works, with an array of people who are interested making the government functional even with a novice emperor.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I just loved this book because it actually deal with the nitty gritty of governance. Maia was an interesting character, but everyone was a fully fleshed out figure and the villains had a point of view. They weren’t just evil for the sake of being evil. I also loved his grandfather. I would like to have seen more of that grand old goblin. I really hope she writes another book set at the court and featuring our young emperor.

  • JaniceG says:

    I enjoyed this book a lot for many of the reasons mentioned – the intricacy but also obvious functionality of the court, the lack of a Huge Crisis, the practicality of Maia coming to terms with his new life, and other things as well, and hope that there will be sequels. However, I have to agree with GRRM about the lack of SF/F elements to the story (aside from airships and some hints at magic). This could have been a tale of any mixed-breed cast-aside younger son brought to court and having to cope.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I don’t disagree. But I suppose we could make the same argument about Ancillary Sword. Apart from the space station all the action revolves around the humans and their very human issues. The alien threat and fears of the aliens is mentioned, but it’s not the focus. I guess I liked Goblin Emperor a bit more because it felt more complete then Sword. Still I can’t wait for the next book in the Leckie series. Sword just suffered a bit from being a middle book.

Leave a Reply

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