The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is a magical tale about what life would be like if you take an unsuspecting goblin and make him the emperor of the lands. It’s very rare when I read fantasy books that a character of the goblin race would be the centerpiece of the story and so when I saw this book, I thought it would definitely provide for a unique reading experience. Add to the fact that goblins and elves both live in harmony with each other in this world, that was something I really did not want to miss! I was getting a bit sick and tired of starting yet another first book out of a 7-8 book series so the change of pace was also welcomed. There is no denying it. The Goblin Emperor is one slow burner of a book. Add to the fact that every thing in this story deals with court life and politics, you’re always going to find some readers that will complain that it is slow and boring. While I won’t necessarily be that type of reader, I will say that this book had a lot potential that I thought the author missed out on.
Maia, the main protagonist in our story here, gets to be the emperor and it doesn’t take long for the details to be revealed. Throughout the book, we get to read about how he has to deal with the many headaches and awkward situations he’s thrown into after taking the throne. It’s not what I would call “unexpected” but surprisingly, I had little trouble following along and the author managed to hold my attention albeit in a very weird way I must admit. One of the main difficulty when reading The Goblin Emperor stems from having to keep track of the galore of names and family history of not only Maia’s but other characters as well. Add to the fact that many of the names are hard to pronounce adds to that task. However, I did feel that was a necessity in order for the author to immerse us that much more into her world.
Where the book fell short in my honest opinion is the many missed opportunities the author could have taken to really spice things up. For example, rather than having almost the entire story take place in the grand palace with Maia at times performing the same tasks day in and day out, it would have been much more exciting if he got to travel to other places of his kingdom to see how his subjects live their daily lives and help solve the many problems they face. This book is being touted as being set in a “magical world” but really, the only magical thing here is the palace where the emperor and the many workers of court life go about their daily ritual. A bit more of action sprinkled throughout the story definitely wouldn’t have hurt as well. Another thing worthy of note is that there are many, many times throughout the book that you don’t really feel as if Maia was an actual goblin but more so like a human. I don’t think I have ever read about a goblin blushing. Last but not least, I would have loved it if a bit more humor was incorporated into the mix! The overall mood of the story from start to finish was very flat. There weren’t really any ups or downs. With a goblin that hardly knows what he’s doing as the emperor of the land, I would think that would be a good setup for some pretty funny scenes.
All in all, I think The Goblin Emperor is a pretty good debut for a new author. I loved the use of the third person during conversations. I thought that was pretty clever. My biggest hope is for the author to really let it go the next time around. If she can incorporate more elements into her story, I for one would enjoy it that much more.