I’d had this audiobook on hold for a while. When it was finally delivered, I dragged my feet about listening to it. It felt like it might be a heavy fantasy read, and I was in a place where I wanted something fun and light. I took the chance anyway, and I’m so glad I did!
The story of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is set in a rich fantasy world full of the same sorts of prejudice and politics that plague our own world, but with goblins and elves. The story follows the emperor’s fourth son, Maia, who was born from a despised third wife and then, after her death when he was about 10, he was left in the care of a neglectful, abusive cousin for the next 8 or so years, all but forgotten by the court as well as by his father. The book opens when a messenger arrives to announce that the emperor and all three of his heirs have died in a freak air ship accident, leaving Maia as the new emperor — a position he neither wants, nor knows what to do with.
- I did this one as an audiobook, which turned out to be a great choice. There were plenty of unusual fantasy names, and it was very helpful to have the reader pronounce them for me. Plus, the reader was wonderful!
- The story was sweet, and so was Maia. It’s more a coming of age story than it is a fantasy thriller, and it’s delightful to see Maia grow into his role as he learns. I enjoy reading books about people I’d like to meet, and Maia certainly fits the bill on that.
- The world-building and politics are complex, giving a lot of depth to the story in the best possible way. And there are plenty of side characters you come to love as the story progresses.
- Plus, the emperor uses the royal ‘we’ throughout, and it’s amazing.
- There were so many similar names that it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who. I sometimes found I had to go back. That was the only thing I missed about the print book — in the Goodreads comments I saw someone mention that there’s a great glossary of characters in the back of the book.
- There is virtually no tension. This was good in some ways because I was looking for a light, fun story. On the other hand, every time something happened and I was like, “and now the action!” it was resolved within the chapter. Again, this is both a pro and a con.
- With so many characters, quite a few of them ended up a bit two-dimensional. It wasn’t hard to figure out who the ‘bad guy(s)’ were because they were… bad to Maia. However, there were a few surprises who turned out to have more depth than you may have thought at first, so my advice on this one is to just keep reading.
If you’re looking for a fun coming-of-age type story but with a fantasy twist that has very little tension, this is it. For me, it was just what I was looking for in the moment. If you read it, I’d love to discuss with you!
Photo by Les Anderson from StockSnap