If I were to be called upon to provide a single phrase that sums up my reaction to The Goblin Emperor, that would be "a refreshing change of pace".
TheIf I were to be called upon to provide a single phrase that sums up my reaction to The Goblin Emperor, that would be "a refreshing change of pace".
There are a host of things I like about this book that fall into that general area. Namely:
* There isn't a single human in the story.
* The goblins are not bad guys, and in fact have a level of social and cultural development apparently comparable to the elves.
* The protagonist, Maia, is not only not a big brawny action type, he's instead quite kind-hearted and painfully shy and insecure.
* Even though Maia is coming out of a history of abuse, which does inform the development of his character, it's also not a particularly big plot point either.
* This is not quest fantasy. Nor is it "WE MUST OVERTHROW THIS CORRUPT GOVERNMENT" fantasy or "WE MUST KILL THIS BIG EVIL THING" fantasy (and as a writer who has recently finished a trilogy involving both of those tropes, I am aware of the amusement value of my saying that).
* We also don't get into any ideas of "absolute power corrupts absolutely", either. Maia is thrust without warning into the ruling seat of his people, and yet, he rises to the challenge of dealing with it, and his only real goal is to do as good a job as he can. I really appreciate that.
* Addison's taken great care to set up the languages of her society, too--I really rather liked the use of pronouns all over the book, as well as occasional clearly non-English words thrown in here and there to give you a taste of what the languages these elves and goblins are speaking would actually sound like.
At the same time, I hold back slightly from committing to a full five stars. While the language nerd in me really appreciates the effort Addison went to here, I also found the archaic-sounding dialogue a slight hindrance to my ability to immerse myself in the plot. This was not only because of the pronoun usage--all the nobility spoke of themselves in plural form, not just Maia--but also because just about all of the names were polysyllabic tongue-twisters. If you've read Tolkien at all, and specifically The Silmarillion, these names may well remind you of the sorts of names Tolkien gave to the ruling dynasty of Numenor, which blurred together after a while--even for me, a devoted Tolkien geek. The Goblin Emperor gives me the same problem.
Similarly, I was a little startled to discover that the vast majority of the action in the book is episodic, one incident after another along the general theme of "Maia has to deal with the next challenge dropped on him now that he's emperor". There's an arc involving investigating what happened to his father and brothers--the act of sabotage that kills them and puts Maia on the throne to begin with--but that's given surprisingly little emphasis. The story is way more character-driven than it is plot-driven, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it left me feeling like the book should have had more weight to it than it did.
And yet. I'm asking myself if I feel this book's worthy of a Hugo, and specifically, asking myself whether a Hugo-worthy novel really requires a strong plot arc. Or, is it award-worthy all by itself to have a story that revels in language, and whose protagonist simply just has to figure out how to rule his people to the best of his ability, and to do it wisely and well? Because while Addison doesn't really shatter any tropes here, she does rather elegantly evade them. And at the end of the day, I really did enjoy this book. Which is what's important.
Didn't hurt either that I kept imagining Maia as played by Elijah Wood, either. Four stars....more
It's a challenge to properly review this on the grounds that I'm very new to the French language--and this was the first book I tried to read in orderIt's a challenge to properly review this on the grounds that I'm very new to the French language--and this was the first book I tried to read in order to practice my reading comprehension with Quebecois French! So I have to comment on this book with the caveat that my understanding of it is therefore decidedly imperfect.
But that said, I was very pleased to be able to follow the broad strokes of the plot even though I missed a lot of the detail. Right out of the gate we start with a prologue in which the elf Ambrethil, a slave of the drow, is giving birth to a child. She's scared out of her wits that her child will be born half-drow and a girl, which will run a huge risk of the baby being raised in the evil cult of the spider goddess Lloth. Ambrethil will have exactly NONE of this, so she arranges to have her baby smuggled out of the drow city, Rhasgarrok.
Commence the A plot, fast-forwarding twelve years, to when our young heroine Luna is being raised by wolves. Like ya DO. Her only bipedal family figure is a solitary mage, Le Marécageux, who taught her how to speak, read, and write. When her adoptive wolf pack is attacked and apparently wiped out by a drow attacker, Luna learns the truth of her origins from Le Marécageux, and resolves to venture into Rhasgarrok in search of her mother.
Meanwhile, over in plot B, the warrior Darkhan is also infiltrating Rhasgarrok on a mission of his own. He's promptly captured by the sorceress Oloraé, who forces him to become a gladiator. Again, like ya DO.
I was entirely unsurprised that plot A and plot B eventually intersected, but was pleasantly surprised by what transpired then. Luna, despite her initial introduction being quite cliched (because of course she's unbelievably beautiful and looks exactly like her mother, yadda yadda yadda), was quite a bit more mature and clever than Darkhan was willing to give her initial credit for. Sure, the whole "oh this sweet innocent young thing I must protect from the awful things in this city" thing is another heavily used trope, but Luna and Darkhan both carried it out in a surprisingly likeable fashion. Which is the overall thing about this book; it uses a lot of heavily used tropes, but it does it surprisingly charmingly.
And, despite how my ability to follow the French was rough at best, I was able to pick up on how there's some surprisingly grim bits with Darkhan in the gladiatorial bouts. My rough impression of the interactions between Darkhan and Oloraé suggested there was probably innueundo there, too. But overall this certainly seemed appropriately written for a YA audience.
So if you're an Anglophone looking to practice your French, this would be a fun way to do it. I'll be checking out more books in the series, since they're digitally available to US customers on a few different sites. I'll give this one four stars, mostly out of pleasure for the language practice, but also for finding it generally charming....more
When I read Sharon Shinn's first book in her Twelve Houses series, I found it a bit shaky in its initial chapters, at least till it got its feet underWhen I read Sharon Shinn's first book in her Twelve Houses series, I found it a bit shaky in its initial chapters, at least till it got its feet under it. I was very pleased to discover that I had no such problem with Book 2, The Thirteenth House.
This book continues the adventures of the overall cast of characters established in Mystic and Rider as they pursue the greater plot arc of anti-magic sentiment sweeping their kingdom and threatening to plunge them all into outright war. However, the focus shifts now from Senneth and Tayse over to the shapeshifter Kirra, whose participation in the rescue of their king's kidnapped regent, Lord Romar, leads to a stormy affair with said regent. The catch: Romar is married, and Kirra is impersonating her own half-sister. Between that and Kirra's need to keep her true identify and her talents secret, the affair is perilous to them both. Kirra's soon swamped in intrigue--and comes under the threat of the ringleaders of the growing potential rebellion.
Overall I liked this book quite a bit, despite the fact that as a character, Kirra is definitely more flawed than Senneth. She's impulsive to a fault, and at first this is frustrating. Yet she did well riding the line between "I want to smack her for her choices" and "I am nonetheless sympathizing with her", and she shows some admirable development when faced with the consequences of her actions. (Even as she's ultimately forced into a difficult and ethically shady choice indeed, about which I shall not elaborate, because spoilers.)
I did also like Romar, and was relieved to see that Shinn did not go the too-easy route of making his wife unlikeable. Some readers may find the fact that Kirra's carrying on with a married man ethically shady all by itself; if you're one of those readers, this book won't be for you. But for what it's worth, I did appreciate that Shinn didn't make it easy on either character.
On the bigger level of the overall story arc, I liked the advancements in this one quite a bit. After I finished this one off as a library checkout, I went ahead and committed to buying the series, and I'll look forward to finishing them off. For this one, four stars....more