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The Goblin Emperor
A Book Review of the novel by Katherine Addison
The Goblin Emperor was great. It wasn’t great because the plot was riveting, this book was not filled with constant drama. In fact I can see why some people would think it was dry, mundane, and political. But all these things were what made it absorbing.
The world building is impeccable. Despite the fact that the main character spends 90% of his time in three main halls of his castle, the world building is vast. The author’s writing is meticulous and sets the vivid scene of a young clueless king, Maia, thrust into opulence and sparkling with naiveté.
Maia is the abandoned son of the king’s dead fourth wife - he was relegated to Edonomee where he lived for ten years with some servants and an uncaring tutor. Maia discovers he’s going to be emperor when he learns his father and brothers have died in an airship crash. As an 18 year old with insufficient training, Maia goes to the Alcethmeret in the Untheileneise Court to claim his throne. As Maia learns the intrigue of the court, the reader learns as well. Similar to Dune and The King, Timothèe Chalamet could also play the goblin king.
There are attempted murders, intrigue and balls, but then there are also multitudinous scenes depicting the actual job of the king, which isn’t that sexy. That is to say the book is mostly meetings. Some of these meetings discuss who will marry whom and the goings on in court. But a lot of the talk focuses on whether or not the government should build a bridge between goblin and elvish lands. I’m doing a bad job selling this because even though this all sounds like it would be boring, its enthralling because the writing is just so good.
The culture is well crafted and introduced through the rituals and traditions that Maia experiences, such as Maia’s coronation and father’s funeral. The author uses language to set the scene. The characters all have names that reveal their gender and status. Additionally, people of high rank refer to themselves in the third person unless around people they trust. These linguistic details are evidence of author’s precision.
I loved this book because it is atmospheric and the main character is a sincerely nice person. The book reads more like 1960s or 70s fantasy rather than the sexy tropey fantasy of the 2010s and 20s. There is no unnecessarily sexy love interest, no predictable and drawn out fluff, just meeting rooms and riches.
The Don’t Call Me Ishmael Official Book Rating, Sponsored by Whâles Sans Frontières (WSF):
5/5 Whales — A Whale of a Novel