Books: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. YA fantasy. Hardback, 446 pages. Currently a stand-alone.
Maia never wanted - and certainly never expected - to be emperor. The only son of the fourth wife of the emperor, Maia had been raised in near-exile by a man he feared and grew to hate. And Maia had the nerve to look like the racial blend he was: half foreign goblin, half imperial elf. So when the entire lineage above him died in a sabatoged airship, Maia ascended to the throne without friends and without any idea of the current political situation. All he had were the beautiful manners his mother taught him before her death in his childhood, and a strong desire to treat everyone with respect and mercy.
While Addison was previously published in anthologies, The Goblin Emperor is Addison's first novel. Correction: Addison has published six novels under a different name.
She did not attempt anything epic with her work, and kept the scope centered around Maia's artificially constrained world. This book is set almost inside Maia's mind, though it clings beautifully to both third person and past tense. Unfortunately, Addison could not resist falling into the "high fantasy" trap of piling on opaque names and honorifics as well as casting back in English grammar history for the "thee/thou" second-person familiar construction and its accompanying "est" verbs. So the conversations get more than a little difficult to fathom, with political implications of which pronouns are being used.
I wish I had known that the very back of the book was the explanation of the names and their construction. I think it would have been a much more satisfying book if I had used that reference. Even without it, I was pleased with both the story and the characters. To be fair, there is so little action in the 400-plus pages that any less sympathy for the character would have meant I never finished the story. For the most part, people come and go, scheme and sympathize and fear, and pile up before the reader like half the population of an Imperial court naturally would. There is almost no conclusion to the book, but a part of that is because there was not a lot of action to conclude.
I received the book as a gift. I recommend The Goblin Emperor for both enjoyment of clashes in culture and enjoyment of poetic descriptions of even mundane actions. I absolutely do not recommend it for people with bad memories for names or who didn't like Sunshine
Edited to add: Now that I know Addison is a previously published novelist, I feel more comfortable criticising the excesses in description and dialog. For having almost no action, this book was long
, and an editor with a strong eye towards flow could have worked with Addison to tighten up the flow. Books read in 2014