Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Crush: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

I swoon over this cover.

This book hardly needs any of my praise. It's a 2015 Nebula AND Hugo Award finalist. And just look at that cover! Gracious goblins, I swoon.

The premise of the story is that 18 year-old Maia finds himself both the unexpected and unprepared next Emperor of the Elfin lands.

Maia is hopelessly likable. His character was the biggest hook for me, and I fell for him hard.

I immediately saw a connection to current politics in this story because Maia is biracial, and faces opposition because of his race. In his case, his country is mostly made up of pureblood elves, whereas he is half-elf, half-goblin.

In his infancy, his supreme jerk of a father banished him and his young mother to a remote area. Maia's mother died when he was eight years old, and he was left in the care of a distant, abusive cousin. And there you have it -- a sad, lonely prince.

The story opens when his father and brothers die aboard an airship crash, and much of the tale takes place in Maia's mind as he learns the labyrinth of court rules, figures out the truth of what happened to his father, and assumes his rightful role as Emperor.

The way the author unfolds the plot is slow, deliberate, and masterful. The prose is gorgeous. I listened to this book as an audio file rather than reading it, and there were sections that glowed. One such section -- without spoilers -- is one in which Maia enters a period of prayer before bearing witness to a public execution, where the guilty person has wronged him terribly.

Here's what he's thinking at the time:

"I cannot afford this anger. The Emperor of the Ethuveraz cannot become vengeful, for once begun, there will never be an end of it. Ulis, he prayed, abandoning the set words, let my anger die with him. Let both of us be freed from the burden of his actions. Even if I cannot forgive him, help me not to hate him."

I absolutely adored the characters' physical descriptions. The goblins are black with red eyes, or dark grey with orange eyes. The elves are white or light grey with grey, green, and blue eyes. They have long ears, which twitch, prick up, and flatten to convey their emotion. It seriously made me wish for big, flickable elf ears.

As far as critique, and I echo others here, I struggled with the names and titles in this book. It was on par with Tolkien and his made-up languages, and keeping the people, titles, and places all straight while listening to this story took more work than a Dostoevsky tome.

Go, buy, borrow, download -- whatever. Enjoy!

And here's the official book blurb:

     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 favor with the na├»ve 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 specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne-or his life.

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