Timothy Rice

The Goblin Emperor

Better to build new bridges than to pine after what’s been washed away

Rating: 4/5 – Recommended without hesitation.

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The Goblin Emperor is the delightfully uplifting story of Maia, the half-goblin/half-elf fourth son of the ruler of the Elflands. Exiled to a life of poverty by his contemptuous father, he suddenly finds himself elevated to Emperor – a role he is neither prepared for nor desires.

Katherine Addison’s magnificent prose is extraordinary for its ability to evoke the same feeling of bewilderment and helplessness experienced by the new emperor. Maia is deluged by an overwhelming cascade of courtiers, positions of office, customs, and duties, all of which make perfect sense to everyone but him and by extension, the reader. Gradually his and our understanding is built up, and by the novel’s conclusion the workings of the empire have begun to feel natural and intuitive.

Maia’s emotional growth from browbeaten child to assured leader is tranquilly cathartic and I finished the story feeling peacefully content. It was not unlike getting a good meal with friends after a long week, or sinking into bed after a hard day of work. I just felt good after reading it. Usually I don’t like this sort of feel good story, but there was something quietly empowering about this one.

My one lone complaint is that the section at the end of the book describing Elvish culture should be moved to the start. While it may have interfered slightly with the reader’s sense of confusion, I think it would have provided just enough of a starting point to get someone started.