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This is a nearly perfect book for our current Coronavirus lockdown. It has all the richly imagined world building and political machinations of Game of Thrones but with central characters we can unreservedly love and none of the murder, rapine, torture, gore, etc. that can make George R.R. Martin's series so exhausting. The title character is young Maia Drazhar, the half-goblin son of Emperor Varenechibel IV, ruler of the elven kingdom of Ethuverez. His rather brutal father regretted the marriage to his goblin mother and banished the boy to the hinterlands, to be raised by an embittered cousin, where he received neither the education nor training to prepare him for life in the Untheileneise Court. But that's exactly where he ends up when his father and full-blood brothers are all killed in a suspicious airship disaster.

As you'll have intimated, this is not a Tolkienesque world of elves and orcs. For one thing the author incorporates mild elements of steampunk, but, more significantly, there isn't much magical about the elves and the goblins are notable mostly for their darker skin, colorful eyes and somewhat earthier manners, though that's enough to have them thought of as savages more or less. At any rate, Maia's mixed race suffices to make him a curiosity at best and an object of hatred at worst.

Meanwhile, rather than simply seeking to conform to the existing customs of the throne and continuing to govern in the despotic manner of his father, Maia surprises everyone by repaying the ill-treatment he has suffered with respect, compassion and fairness for those around him and for his new subjects. He wins the loyalty and even love of advisors, retainers, guards, and even some rivals, but can't win over everyone. Soon there are plots against him and resistance to his plans for a massive infrastructure project and an investigation into the fatal crash reveals pre-existing conspiracies.

I listened to this one on my dog walks, so I did not have to struggle with Ms Addison's dense elvish language. I would not have gotten the spelling of any name or word right just upon hearing. And I take it this can be a stumbling block for readers. I hope not or that you'd persevere or try the audio. For good and ill, the tale is hyper-focussed on just Ethuverez, which makes the stakes kind of small. For my money, the book comes most alive when Maia's goblin grandfather pays a visit, which leaves us wondering about the world beyond this kingdom. And, while the story could stand alone, we have to hope that sequels are coming because there are plenty of loose ends. But there's one element in particular that dangles and it would be fun to explore further. One of the groups involved in the plot against the old emperor follows a philosophy/religion that would seem to justify the assassination, particularly because of the enlightened nature of the government that Maia's institutes. There's more there and a follow-up that plucked at this strand would be particularly welcome.


Grade: (A)


Katherine Addison Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Katherine Addison
    -WIKIPEDIA: Sarah Monette
    -BOOK SITE: The Goblin Emperor (MacMillan)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Goblin Emperor
    -ARCHIVES: The Sarah Monette Papers (Northern Illinois University)
    -EXCERPT: Chapters 1-4 of Goblin Emperor (Tor Books)
    -EXCERPT: from The Goblin Emperor: News Comes to Edonomee (MacMillan)
    -PROFILE: Madison fantasy author Sarah Monette has a hit by any other name (Rob Thomas, Feb 2, 2019, The Capital Times)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with Sarah Monette, Part I (of Blog, August 03, 2007)
    -INTERVIEW: Sarah Monette: Tangents and Curlicues (Locus, April 2008)
    -INTERVIEW: SFF In Conversation: Katherine Addison on The Goblin Emperor and Grimdark (Book Smugglers, April 22, 2014)
    -GUIDE: Tropes in Goblin Emperor (TV Tropes)
    -ARCHIVES: Sarah Monette (Strange Horizons)
    -REVIEW: of the Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Megan McArdle, Library Journal))
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Fergus McCartan, Fantasy Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Michael Ann Dobbs, Gizmodo)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Foz Meadows, Strange Horizons)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Liz Bourke, Tor)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Book Smugglers)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin emperor (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Kate Lechler, Fantasy Literature)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Lise Fracalossi)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Janine, Dear Author)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Tim Lepczyk, Boxy Robot)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (David Pitt, Booklist)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Blue Author Is About To Write, Alexandra Erin's Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Andrew Stephens, Sheep Horse)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Dorian Hart, Reddit)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Speculate)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Rob, SFF World)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Kasey Giard, Story Sanctuary)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Olivia Woods, Minerva)
    -REVIEW: of Goblin Emperor (Nancy E., Evanston Public Library)

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