“The Goblin Emperor” – Is It Really Steampunk?

Book Review: The Goblin Emperor
By Katherine Addison

Spoiler Alert!

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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 choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

The Goblin Emperor was well thought out and the court politics were thorough, but some how I wasn’t entranced. I would barely classify this book as steampunk. I would have loved more details that really fit in the steampunk genre. The three main problems I had with this novel were, 1) the names, 2) the main character was whiny 3) pacing.

The names were very long and convoluted. Even by the end I was double checking if that person was so-and-so, “Oh yes that is the woman the main character is engaged to marry!” Yikes! I read fast and tend to recognize names rather than sound them out and that just wasn’t possible in this novel. I should have written them down like I do when reading a Russian novel. In Addison’s defense of names, she does have a reason for each one and the rules of naming are consistent, such as, male names end in -a, -is, and -et. She has more rules to the linguistics in the back of the novel.

Maia, the main character, was whiny. I can handle unsure of self, whiny and all around being annoying for about 80 pages. After that fateful point, the character better be making some progress in personal development. I did feel empathy for Maia and the snake pit of the royal court he was dropped in,  but he needed to feel more confidence and take action rather than having the action happen to him more quickly.

The pacing was again off, similar to the character development of Maia. The action was overwhelmed by the political maneuvering. It became such a snarl of intrigue that the novel stalled. Simply stated, I got bored waiting for relationships, discovery of the murderer and wanted more.

I realize it sounds like I’ve ripped The Goblin Emperor to shreds and that was not my point. I did like the novel, it just wasn’t love at first read. I liked the prejudice between goblins and elves. I also liked the contrast between their two cultures. The elves were the more refined and the goblins seemed to be the more course. It would be interesting to see how perception may change as we learn more about their societies. After all, it was the elves were murdering their own! Sounds rather unrefined, don’t you think?

I will try another Katherine Addison book when she has published something new.

3 out of 5 stars
3 star

– Michelle

The teenager is not interested in reading this one.

She is currently reading Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr. Hopefully we will have the review soon, but if your like fantasy I think you would like this series.



About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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