This week’s novel was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This was one of those books that I knew I was going to have to read just by sheer virtue of how often it was recommended to me. People ranted and raved about it’s brilliance, yet on paper it was not something I would typically be interested in. A novel that was nearly all court intrigue with very little physical action. In fact, the story is almost entirely conversation and inner dialogue. So much so that it almost reads like a play.
Yet despite this, I still loved the novel and was sucked in immediately. The Goblin Emperor was an enjoyable read, one that I was sad was over so quickly. In fact, though I generally an happy for a standalone, I am sad that this one has no sequels.
This novel stands on two strengths, character development and world building.
Firstly, the world building is done very well. Addison cleverly sketches out a world through small hints, without being heavy handed. The world seems lively and complicated, with much more to it than is show in the story. The court in which the novel chiefly takes place is satisfyingly complicated and rewards careful reading. In fact, at times I felt out of my depth with all of the details.
Though, in my opinion, the true standout in this novel takes place in the character development of Maia. Maia is the main character and we spend the whole novel inside of his head, seeing what he sees and struggling along with the complexities of court politics with him. Maia is one of the most relatable and likeable characters I’ve ever read.
His almost excessive desire to be good and fair to all is well tempered by his very considerable weaknesses. Being along for his journey and seeing him grow to meet the almost herculean challenge give him was deeply satisfying. Often in novels the characters grow and change massively by the end of their stories, becoming magnitudes better than they were. Maia’s growth is much smaller but just as if not more meaningful. Every small stride he makes seems all the more worthy of celebration due to the difficulty of achieving it.
Overall, I would fully recommend this novel to just about anyone. Thought at times it is difficult to read, and the sheer volume of character names alone can be overwhelming. Despite this, Addison guides the reader competently and while some details may slip by, the main plot points are impossible to miss. If you enjoy reading deep, complicated fantasy that is heavily character driven, I would recommend adding The Goblin Emperor to your TBR pile!