The Goblin Emperor Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 3/10)

The Goblin Emperor
The Goblin Emperor

By: Katherine Addison
First published in 2014
Book 3/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

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.


The Goblin Emperor is a court-intrigue fantasy book with a very appealing main character.

Half-goblin Maia has lived all his life sequestered in a distant mansion, when the death of his elven father and all the other heirs to the throne in an airship accident makes him the Emperor. He has no knowledge of court politics, and the only person he knows is the volatile cousin whose bitter mood swings he has had to live with in his exile.

Maia is a marvelously likable character, and to me he was the main selling point of the book. I loved him! He feels so alienated: he has been raised by an abusive man, he doesn’t know anyone in the court, and he is the only goblin there among the tall, pale elves, if you don’t count the servants. Maia is very easy to sympathize with, and he feels like a real person, his inner voice is so genuine. You can’t help but root for him as he tries to learn how to rule and to get used to the fact that he can’t be bossed around like when he was little. All this while feeling like he can’t trust anyone. Other characters that I enjoyed include Maia’s bodyguards, and his marvelously competent secretary, Csevet.

Katherine Addison has created a complete fantasy court with new titles, etiquette, politics, and customs. The huge amount of names and titles could be overwhelming, but I actually liked it, since Maia was quite overwhelmed by the court, too. I would like to just start from the beginning and read this again, since I know more of the customs and remember all the characters better now. There’s a glossary at the back, but when a person can be referred to as title + surname or first name + surname, it will get confusing at times. Especially when there might be a female title + surname, and a male title + surname from the same family, and you have to remember which was which.

I recommend this to people who like character-focused, slower fantasy books, and don’t mind being bombarded with a lot of fantasy names. While the court intrigue scheming might not be very intricate, the main point is the character’s journey, and I felt with Maia every step of the way.

5 out of 5 stars

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