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The Goblin Emperor

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  4,581 ratings  ·  1,077 reviews
A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

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 ch
Hardcover, 446 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Tor Books
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Carolyn Agreeing with Sundayscat, it depends on the reading level of the child. I think especially for a tween, the plot of an 18 year old and 14 year old…moreAgreeing with Sundayscat, it depends on the reading level of the child. I think especially for a tween, the plot of an 18 year old and 14 year old thrust into positions of responsibility for which they are not prepared and with parents on whom they cannot rely would probably be appealing. I know it would have been for me at that age. Actual violence is minimal and non-graphic, although the threat of violence and its ripple effects spread throughout the novel. Also, even though "maza" probably translates to mage, there is nothing of the occult in this book that can be so mentally scarring for a child. Honestly I think the biggest barrier would probably be some of the abstruse language, but older readers continually underestimate kids' abilities to pick up languages and write their own, so I really don't think that's any major concern.(less)
Josiphine No sequel but possibly a companion novel with some overlapping characters, per the author's website.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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If you ask me, no-one is going to rain on this parade – simply because there is no rain on the books here.
No matter how much I often enjoy a dark and epic fantasy book, having one that is completely different in tone is refreshing. It’s a fantasy novel told from the perspective of one humble and utterly likeable young man – somewhat back to the fantasy novel style of the ’80s. Throughout the book, I honestly couldn’t shake the feeling that in another life Maia might have been raised in Aunt Pol
We thoroughly enjoyed this book, but we have been unable to stop thinking in the majestic plural for many hours after reading many passages of dialogue written as such. We fear that our adoption of this narrative strategy will result in some confusion amongst our peers and are attempting to restrict it to our thoughts and not our spoken words. We could not avoid writing a brief and enthusiastic recommendation for this most absorbing high fantasy novel; however, we will bide our time until this s ...more
Alex Ristea
The Goblin Emperor started out incredibly promising. This look into the reluctant life of a coddled emperor directly opposes the wave of Grimdark we've seen in Fantasy lately (of which I'll admit I'm a big fan). Here we have a protagonist who is...dare I say it, is kind.

That instantly grabbed me in the opening pages. Katherine Addison is currently one of the brightest voices writing in the genre. Is the pendulum of grittiness swinging back to the fantasy stories of the 80s?

Honestly, I was expect
Lois Bujold
May 16, 2014 Lois Bujold rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like court intrigue fantasy
Recommended to Lois by: accumulated internet reviews; plus, cool cover

Well, that was riveting.

The exiled half-blood son of an emperor's discarded fourth wife suddenly and unexpectedly inherits the throne after a terrible airship accident, and must scramble to find his feet in a Byzantine several-thousand-year-old elvish court. I adore the fact that this isn't a war story at all, for a wonderful, wonderful change, though it does have a nice murder mystery going on in the background at times.

It reminded me a lot of The King of Attolia, a favorite, with a bit of Gorm
Sherwood Smith
Apr 04, 2014 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fantasy
It is said that Samuel Richardson, after being hectored by readers and critics following the runaway success of his novel Clarissa (a success, one gathers from reading period chatter, due in large part to his witty villain Lovelace before his inevitable and lugubrious end), promised he would write about a good man.

So he gave the world Sir Charles Grandison, who was so firmly aware enough of his perfection that he converses lengthily to all and sundry between the busyness of kidnappings, abductio
First Second Books
You know how sometimes (frequently) when you read lost heir stories, the lost heir is a peasant who can’t read and doesn’t even know who the current king is, much less understands how a constitutional monarchy works? And then two weeks later, he’s been crowned king! And the only problem is a mustache-twirling usurper (or else, war! – but that’s always pretty easy to deal with) who can easily be handled by just killing him or throwing him in a dungeon.

This is not that book.

In The Goblin Emperor,
Executive Summary: The second half of this book is far superior to the first half making for a rather enjoyable read for me in the end. It won't be for everyone though.

Full Review
I must say I'm surprised to be giving this such a high rating. And not a 3.5 rounded up, but a solid 4. At the start of the book this was more like the 2.5 area.

The writing is fine. The world building, though sparse was decent. And I liked Maia from the start. With the reading funk I was in, this seemed like a good op
This was an enjoyable read. The story was engaging despite not being all that exciting. This was a character driven fantasy that mainly focused on court intrigue.

Maia, who is half goblin, has spent his entire life living in an isolated country estate. First being looked after by his mother and then his banished cousin after his mother died. As the outcast fourth son he was largely ignored and forgotten by the court and his cruel neglectful father. An accident on an airship changes all this as t
Tadiana ♕Part-Time Dictator♕
This is an unusual fantasy, but I really enjoyed it. Maia is the rejected and unloved 18 year old half-goblin son of the fourth wife of the emperor of the elves (I know his name sounds like a girl's name, and this description is starting to get complicated already, but stick with me here). Maia has been living in exile and isolation for years, but unexpectedly becomes the emperor when his father and three older half-brothers die in an accident(view spoiler). Suddenly ...more
Sherwood Smith
I read this novel in draft a year ago. I just checked to see when it would be published--April. So I will have more to say when I get the actual book.

But it is on my buy-at-once list: since it's not out there is little to say that isn't spoilery. but put it this way. I was struggling with some devastating family news, and this novel is about the only thing I read during the month of January 13 that took me out of grief, and absorbed me completely. I loved it.

More in a few months.


It is said
When I finished The Goblin Emperor, I was sad there wasn’t more of it. Is there higher praise?

The things other people have critiqued do make sense: the fact that is very much character-driven rather than plot driven; the plethora of names and titles to get used to; the language stuff which may superficially appear just gimmicky and faux-archaic; the fact that Maia is often reacting rather than being proactive. Me, though, I loved it, for all of those things and more. For example, the thee/thou s
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

On a trip to China a few years ago, I got to visit the Forbidden City in Beijing. Surrounded by such a display of magnificent splendor and so much opulence, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole tour group was thinking the same thing: how wonderful it must have been to be emperor, to be the son of heaven and have your word be law, all the luxury in the world at your fingertips and an army servants to cater to your every whi
3.5/5 stars

WARNING: This review is pretty long (and also quite boring). I didn’t write a novel on purpose, there were just so many aspects I felt like I needed to mention. OKAY!

"After a time, he felt a deeper rhythm, the rhythm of the stone and water, not the rhythm of his words and heartbeat. He breathed into this deeper rhythm, let it teach him a new mantra, a wordless mantra that waxed and waned, ebbed and flowed, moon and stars and clouds, river and sun, the wordless singing of the earth ben
I actually finished this some time ago - not sure when. I really enjoyed it. Will write a full review shortly.
Fantasy Review Barn

I finished The Goblin Emperor and found myself smiling. Not just from the joy of reading a really good book, but because for the first time in a long time I read a fantasy novel with a hopeful tone. Obviously the current trend of the genre is quite the opposite of hopeful, and those that break out of the dark tone tend to end with everything wrapped up in a package and happily ever after. But to end just on a hopeful tone? Well, that just causes smiles.

The blurb really tells y
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I probably would not have read this book if it hadn't been selected for the Sword and Laser book club for March 2015, and in the same month get announced as one of the Nebula nominees.

It's not my normal fare, in other words. It was described to me as a steampunk-fantasy court drama novel, but I would characterize it more as a coming of age, fish out of water, court drama novel. The steampunk is far in the background and as much as I don't geek out about those kinds of details, I think more of t
This is a charming tale of an unprepared young man, launched into a world that would be daunting even if he had been trained for it. Exiled by his father, abused by his guardian, disregarded and despised by everyone but his mother, Maia must find his way in a court that is complicated, unforgiving, and hostile.

I appreciated some of the real world concerns that found their way into this work of fantasy: the issue of skin colour, the status of women, the ways that people treat one another as “less
4.5 stars.

This book. I simply can't think of another book that I found simultaneously so slow and so gripping. It was a slow read in part because of the abundance of names - place names, personal and family names, political group names, positions even. They were so numerous and so many far too similar, and occasionally even the lengthy list of names in the back of the book didn't help - it's one of the reasons I took away half a star, and would have been a full star docking if I hadn't been so e
THE GOBLIN EMPEROR grabbed me tight and didn't let me go until it finished. Not an easy feat for a book with approximately one half of an action scene in over four hundred pages. That doesn't mean the scope of the book is small - the health of an entire empire is on the line, as civil war and external war both loom on the horizon.

Maia was the youngest and least favored son of the emperor. He's half goblin and not exactly attractive by court standards, to top it off. When his father and brothers
This review was originally posted on Avid Reviews:

The Goblin Emperor is a unique debut that challenges expectations for modern speculative fiction. This novel seems to be the opposite of the “grimdark” movement in fantasy that has flooded the genre with stories that are dark and gritty, where the protagonist is an antihero and the plot is filled with violence. Instead, this novel harkens back to the days when Mary Stewart and Peter S. Beagle were the leaders
"Sudden Emperor" would be an alternative title for this gaslight fantasy, reminding of all those "Sudden XYZ" movies: Suddenly a change of role is imposed upon an unexpecting youngster. In this case the Elvish emperor with his direct heirs died in an airship "accident" and deported goblin Maia has to climb the throne in the delicate age of 18 years without knowledge of court politics and schemes at all.

In my title, I scratched out the word "Goblin" because it doesn't matter much. Ignoring the di
Despite the generally great ratings & reviews of this book, and its recent Nebula nomination, this book did not bring ‘it’ in many categories.

The good: Maia, the new emperor, is a great character. Despite his lack of confidence, he performs admirably in his new job with the help of his secretary, Csevet.

The not-so-good: The world. I’ve seen in some places this book be called a ‘fantasy of manners’. I suppose there are readers who would be interested in this kind of thing but it’s definitely
I wanted to reread this more slowly as an "actual book" after unrestrainedly devouring the ebook.

There is just something so charming about this story! Imagine, a ruler who succeeds through being nice to people. What even is that.

[Previous review]
So very enjoyable. Like imagine if Game of Thrones was written by Agatha Christie. Sort of. Plus elves?
I think if I'd read this when I was younger I would have read it over and over again, but these days the knowledge of my own mortality keeps me from d
Originally reviewed at Oh Magic Hour. I received this book for free from NetGalley and Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Read this book. In case you are one of those people who skims reviews, hunting for the bottom line, I put it here at the front for ease. Please. Just give it a try. I honestly considered just putting a bunch of FLAIL gifs in here and calling it a day, but decided the book probably deserved bett
Yes, again already. I can’t really justify doing a whole new review for this, but I felt the need to at least record that I read it again and loved it just as much — loved the characters, giggled, got embarrassed for them, wanted to just high five someone when they did awesome things. This book is up there among my discoveries of Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, N.K. Jemisin, Guy Gavriel Kay… I believe it’s Hugo eligible, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to vote again this year for the sake of this book.

I had high expectations for this and although the story was not what I expected it was quite enjoyable. The first person POV and the very likable main character made this read worthwhile. While the world building and the fantasy setting were underdone and every kind of name used (apart from the MC's) was a horror I decided not to bite he with, the characters were interesting and there interactions were engaging if not exciting. The story was a bit slow and somehow lacked tension and suspense. Ye ...more
Maia, half-goblin fourth son of the elven Emperor, has been exiled from a young age to the back of the beyond; although said exile has not been without its hardships (his mother died so he's being raised by a relative who'd really rather be anywhere else doing anything else), at least it means he's not with the Emperor and his [Maia's] half-brothers, when the Emperor's airship goes down.

So within the first few pages of the book, Maia finds himself dragged from aforementioned exile to the halls o
This book is so lovely and so refreshing. It had all the things I was hoping for -- a deeply loveable but not-too-perfect hero with a powerful emotional arc, amazing worldbuilding, compelling secondary characters, twisty political machinations that kept me fascinated to the very end -- and the unexpected bonus of some of my favorite tropes as well (though I won't say which ones, because spoilers). And it's such a WARM book, for all that there are some very unpleasant people and unhappy incidents ...more
The funny thing is, I wasn't at all sure that I'd like this book. It had sat on my wishlist for a very, very long time - I enjoyed her earlier books, and lots of people had given this book great reviews - but when I'd read a Kindle sample, the archaic language had seriously put me off. Still, I left it on my wishlist because the reviews were SO good - and when Patrick got it for me for Christmas, I really gave it a real try. Two hours later, I was 82 pages into it and in LOVE. (And I got used to ...more
Rachel Brown
This unusual and lovely fantasy makes use of some genre concepts, like elves and goblins and a young man who unexpectedly ascends the throne, to tell a completely different story than the one you might expect.

Maia is the half-goblin son of the Emperor of the Elves and a wife he never wanted. Since he was never expected to rule, he was relegated to the middle of nowhere and raised by an emotionally and physically abusive courtier who didn’t want to be there. Then an airship carrying the emperor
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A pseudonym of Sarah Monette. Both Sarah and Katherine are on Twitter as @pennyvixen. Katherine reviews nonfiction. Sarah reviews fiction. Fair warning: I read very little fiction these days.

Sarah/Katherine was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the three secret cities of the Manhattan Project.

She got her B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, her M.A. and Ph.D. from the Universi
More about Katherine Addison...

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“ 'In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.'

'You consider that unjust, Serenity?'

'We consider it cruel,' Maia said. 'And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.' ”
“ 'We cannot decide,' the Witness for the Treasury said. 'We are sorry, but it is the truth.'

'May we suggest that indecisiveness is hardly a desirable trait in a member of the Corazhas?' Lord Pashavar said.

'We will give our resignation if His Serenity asks it,' the Witness for the Treasury said, looking at Maia.

'You are very decisive in your indecision,' Maia said, which surprised several members of the Corazhas into laughing.”
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