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The Goblin Emperor

(The Goblin Emperor #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  36,981 ratings  ·  5,779 reviews
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 n
Hardcover, 446 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Tor Books
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Johan Thilander Oh, I felt it was such a relief to have a stand-alone fantasy novel. It's such a rare thing, and I love it. …moreOh, I felt it was such a relief to have a stand-alone fantasy novel. It's such a rare thing, and I love it. (less)
Mighty I plan on giving it to my 11 year old, she would love it. I will admit that her reading level is beyond the 12th grade, which is why it is so hard to …moreI plan on giving it to my 11 year old, she would love it. I will admit that her reading level is beyond the 12th grade, which is why it is so hard to find good adult level fantasy novels that are appropriate enough for the lower maturity level. This is one that I find will work with her maturity level.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  36,981 ratings  ·  5,779 reviews

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chai ♡
I am so wretchedly late to the party, but I'm so glad I finally picked up this book.

Everything about The Goblin Emperor sung to me: from the clarity of its prose, to its delicate internecine politics, to its understatedly gorgeous and thoughtful world-building, to the way it deals, very achingly, with the terrible buried wounds of childhood abuse, the deep scouring griefs of unbelonging, and that quiet, painful pang of recognition when you read “it was the first time in his life Maia had been s
December 2021 Update
Me, Christmas Eve day: I could read one of the hundreds of books on my to-read list, some of which are literally sitting on the nightstand by my bed, or...I could spend the whole day reading The Goblin Emperor again, cover to cover. Let's do that.

June 2019 update: We started doing short recommended read blurbs at my library and I had to push my favorite book to re-read in dark times, so here's what I wrote:

Do you have a favorite novel that you re-read every year? This is mine
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
2021 update: So I just finished the long-awaited sequel to this book, The Witness for the Dead, and it was good but not amazeballs, and I started wondering if this first book was really that much better or if I just was much less critical when I read this 7 years ago (which does happen, pretty frequently actually. I was a lot less critical of a reviewer back at the beginning of my reviewing hobby).

I'm happy to report that this is, in fact, truly a great fantasy novel! It's creative and immersiv
Lois Bujold
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews
Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.

1.5 stars. A frustrating read that felt equal parts directionless and boring

I can't remember the last time I have been this frustrated with a book that I had have heard so much praise for. I'm a big fan of court intrigue, so mixed in a fantasy setting this seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately what I got was a meandering book with virtually zero tension, bizarre namin
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

I fell in love with this book from the start!! I absolutely love the narration as I listened to the audio through my library. But, I’m getting the Audible and paperback for my own!

THIS IS NOT A FIGHTING, ACTION, BLAH BLAH BLAH, BOOK! This is just a coming of age goblin book and it’s NOT damn boring. If you’re looking for all of the other stuff, you won’t find it here.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
ETA on re-re-read: still one of my favourite books!!!


Original Review

This is one of those rare books, which I wanted to start re-reading right away after I finished.

The novel is a combination of political intrigue, coming of age and whodunnit with a positive outlook/outcome, where the majority of characters stays alive instead of dying cruel, overdramatic or unnecessary deaths.

Titanic wars & armageddon do not feature in the book either, so if you prefer dark, grim, action- and war-packed fan
Sherwood Smith
Apr 01, 2014 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
Re-read 4/24/21:

In preparing to read the sequel, I decided I just had to re-read the original. It's been a while and I remembered it being comforting and comfortable for all the potentially harrowing setup that it represented.

The re-read confirms it. It's subtle, careful, heartbreaking, and a good mystery, all wrapped up in a cloak of humility. Odd, that. And, of course, the exploration of racism is quite clear.

Quite enjoyable.

Original Review:

That goblin was just the sweetest child emperor I've
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favourites
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
Mayim de Vries
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We, Mayim de Vries, first of this name, have a confession to make. For a long time we have needlessly hesitated before reading the Goblin Emperor feeding on our superstitions. Mainly, do to the fact that when we hear “goblin” we see either this:


or this:


While the phrase “goblin king” brings only this picture in our imperial mind:


We apologise. We behaved ungraciously and based on ill premises, which we should not have inflicted on this fine book. We should have not disparaged its quality based o
Rebecca Roanhorse
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Sometimes a book may not be perfect but it's exactly what you need at the moment, and this book was so delightful and charming that it was exactly what I needed in a 2021 that's competing to hold 2020's beer. Low on action and magic, long on very human palace intrigue, a linguist's nerdy dream (I am not a linguist so it was more my chagrin, but I get the appeal) and just sort of enchanting overall.

As I mentioned above, I did struggle with the names and titles and often could not keep
Charlotte Kersten
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 not
Not quite 5 stars, but I'm rounding up for the deftness of the writing.

This isn't fantasy in the traditional sense. It's fantasy in the Guy Gavriel Kay sense, or what I come to think of as "very little magic" high fantasy, and I find myself preferring this kind of fantasy over the elaborate magic-system-based fantasies because there's more focus on the characters, their individual stories, and the histories and current events of these made-up worlds, rather than a detailed or complex magical sys
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,
Mogsy (MMOGC)
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, review-copy
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

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
This thing had a stick up its butt for the first 100 pages, removed it for about a hundred, and then poured a bag of saccharine all over itself and solemnly marched about to the tune of the Emperor’s New Clothes for the rest. After a hugely deceptive start with a charming intro of a language guide- yeah you heard me, super Strange & Norrell mischievous footnote vibes- it suddenly got Very Impressed with its own world building and took itself extremely seriously for way way too long. And while I ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Wanda Pedersen
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
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
Picked this one up bc I saw it recommended a ton as fantasy for fans of Becky Chambers and I just..... do not agree at all lol. This book really lacked personality and I am BUMMED as heck.
Dec 24, 2014 rated it did not like it

Recommended to me by Leonardo, on Goodreads, and some "best fantasy books” lists. As I understand it, he hasn’t actually read it, but plans to. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother.

Synopsis: A half goblin, half elf boy, son of the elven emperor, is astonished to discover that, since his father and all his brothers have died in an accident, he’s the heir to the throne. He goes to the palace where he meets lots of people and watches some things happening.

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
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
I see now why people refer to The Goblin Emperor as a “feel good” book.

I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out. Many of my peers were raving about it and I even got a personalized recommendation for it. When NetGalley offered a promotional audiobook copy for review, I jumped aboard without hesitation.

Overall, I think my expectations might have been a little high because, while I enjoyed the book, it didn’t blow me away. It’s incredibly character-driven, focusing solely on a half-goblin’
Althea Ann
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A perfect court intrigue.

Maia never expected to become much of anyone. Although he’s technically a prince, after his mother died his father the emperor relegated him to exile at a remote manor, under the care of an abusive guardian. He never really expected to escape his position of disfavor, due to his mixed racial heritage. However, when a terrible airship accident not only kills his father, but also wipes out all the other people ahead of him in line for the succession, in one fell blow, Maia
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
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flawed but Likeable Coming-of-Age Fantasy Tale

I have mixed feelings about this novel.

I could have done with less of the unpronounceable and unspellable names and places (Edrahasivar, Varenechibel, the Untheileneise, etc.); elaborate rituals, and endless descriptions of dress and costume , as in the following passage:

"Maia suffered himself to be adorned. Rings for his fingers, silver set with jade and moonstones, bracelets like manacles, silver set with dull cabochon emeralds; a series of rings f
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
5 heartfelt stars. This novel is one of those rare gems that are probably even more valuable over time and it’s all wrapped up in a neat, standalone package.

The beginning is very powerful: at I first struggled a bit to fall into step because everything is not laid out cut and dried before the reader and there are lots of nuances to catch and names to remember, but soon I was utterly and helplessly drawn into Maia's reality.
It’s a testament to the author’s skill that she achieved such delicate b
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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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

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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.'

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'We consider it cruel,' Maia said. 'And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.' ”
“He remembered the moment when his thoughts had inverted themselves—that shift from not being able to please everyone to not trying—and the way that change had enabled him to see past the maneuverings and histrionics of the representatives to the deeper structures of the problem; it was the same with the Corazhas.” 28 likes
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