Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Goblin Emperor

by Katherin Addison

Story summary: Maia's life in seclusion with his cousin is completely changed when his father and step-brothers all die in an airship crash. Especially since it so happens that his father was the emperor, and now Maia is the last heir to the throne. But not only has Maia not been taught anything about the mechanics of ruling an empire, but he's half-goblin in an elven court filled with politics and factions and politics and agendas and politics.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Almost definitely the best book I've read this year so far.
  • Introspective character study.
  • Examination of a very realistic fictional culture.
  • So many wonderful subtle relationships between characters.

And Why You Might Not:
  • You get totally dropped into this strange world with no explanations except a glossary and couple short pages describing language conventions. I love this; it makes everything far more interesting. But you have to be in the mood to enjoying flipping back and forth and puzzling out what people are talking about to properly enjoy this book.

Thoughts: There's this book called The King of Attolia--technically the third in the Queen's Thief series--which ranks among my favourite books of all time. I'm not totally sure why it in particular appeals to me so strongly (someday I'm going to sit down and analyze it properly), but this book shares one of the aspects that make it so beloved to me.

This is the story of the rise to actual power (not just the technicality of being on the throne) of an unexpected and inexperienced ruler. Maia is not quite as clever and audacious as Eugenides, but the relationship he builds with his people is just as brilliant and unconventional. You get all those same subtle moments when his subjects start to realize that not only is he not a scrappy, ignorant young man, but probably one of the best rulers they have ever had, and one they'd gladly die for. It's the growth of intense loyalty that I love especially in both books.

Additionally, the world building is fantastic. I'm pretty sure this will get the Best World Building award in my end-of-the-year RED Book Awards.* Technically it's a world of elves and goblins--familiar to anyone who knows anything about fantasy--but it is so much more. It is so complex and real and interesting... Especially strong in this regard is her use of language. (She has this short section (pg. 259) where she discusses being a philologist, which makes me wonder if she is one herself.)
It takes some courage, I think, to drop your readers into the world and not succumb to long explanations.

Favourite Part: Probably all the bits with the nohecharei, his servants. I love the way their relationship with him grows. The best of all is, of course, the discussion about friendship near the very end (pg. 426), but I don't want to discuss it due to spoilers.

Grade: 5 stars

*I would have said that it was definitely going to win, except I just discovered Brandon Sanderson...

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