The Goblin Emperor

- Katherine Addison

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Maia, 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.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favour with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the spectre of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

solid, good read:
4/5
4.5 stars

The Goblin Emperor is a long 500 pages. It was a slow read for me, likely due to the long names (of everything – people, worlds, locations, etc.), and while a lot happened, it wasn’t a lot for 500 pages. There is a wealth of details for every moment of every day, and we don’t miss out on anything – sleeping, bathing, dressing, clothing, jewellery, rooms, buildings, meals, people, and conversations – you don’t miss a single moment. And I. fucking. loved. it. Because of Maia.

He wondered what they thought of all this, in their gleaming spiky armor and elaborately crested helmets, but of course he could not ask. Truly, he thought wryly, curiosity was a useless trait in an emperor.

It would be impossible to get sick of Maia; his perspective is both naive to the grandeur of his new world and wearied due to the trauma of his past. He is hopeful that his new status may bring him the connections (both friendly and romantic) that he has been denied since his mother’s death and freedom from his lonely existence with Setheris. However, Maia is fully aware that becoming emperor means that he will never be able to trust again, never have real friends, never truly be free; he’ll never even be alone again. It’s a challenging path to navigate, and he does it with every ounce of possible grace as only Maia could. He has a knack for knowing when to ask for help, when to admit that he doesn’t know something, and seems to have an unnatural ability to understand when he can trust someone and bring them closer.

"No, that is not what we mean. He has done no wrong." The memories of a thousand separate cruelties mocked him, but no one save Maia himself had ever counted those as wrongs, and it was unjust to have them declared wrongs now, merely because he could. "We do not wish him unhappy or ill-used. Merely away."

Maia’s awkward nature makes all of this even better; he doesn’t know how to start or maintain a conversation, never knows the right thing to say, and seems to struggle even to stay standing most of the time (literally – he’s so clumsy). He is constantly stumbling into the most uncomfortable situations and blushing and stuttering over the most innocent thoughts. But it is Maia’s kindness that saves him; even if it’s awkward or uncomfortable or he’s said the wrong thing, his underlying meaning always comes through. He is never cruel, even to those who have been cruel to him or who deserve cruelty. There were several times I wanted to shake him and tell him to get the revenge, the vengeance he deserved, but he always took the high road.

"You consider that unjust, Serenity?"
"We consider it cruel," Maia said. "And we do not think that cruelty is ever just."

From the moment he is woken in the middle of the night with the news of his father’s death, Maia spares very few thoughts for himself. He considers his awkwardness, his loneliness, and the path he has to follow, but he never hesitates to make the right decision. He often forfeits sleep, comfort, or peace of mind to do the right thing. Despite his many fears (being alone, doing the wrong thing, being judged, being ignorant, or being excluded – just to name a few of them), Maia is courageous enough to stick to his principles and to the morals his mother instilled in him at an incredibly young age. It is both admirable and inspiring.

One of the best things about reading is when a book completely blindsides you, evoking an emotional reaction you weren’t expecting. I thought I was (fairly) emotionally stable, but The Goblin Emperor reduced me to a sobbing mess on more than one occasion with Maia’s gentle, unassuming kindness. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed. Books don’t just expand your awareness of the world; they also help you to learn more about yourself, allowing for genuine self-reflection and growth – if you’re paying attention.

The abrupt ending with no potential for a satisfactory conclusion is the only reason this isn’t a five-star rating for me. The next book in the series moves on to different characters within the same world, so this is pretty much a standalone. However, it felt like Maia was just starting to figure things out and I want so much more from (and about) him!

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