The Goblin Emperor - Katherine Addison

There's been a lot of buzz about this novel and it picked up nominations for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards (and if you're in SFF, that's a pretty big thing) so I'd duly bought a copy and it finally made it to the top of my TBR pile. 

 

And it's great. Really great. 

 

Our eponymous hero is Maia, who is half-elf and half-goblin, child of a marriage alliance between the two countries they inhabit - the marriage itself had been hot on the heels of the death of the emperor's previous wife in childbirth, so Maia's mother had been sent into internal exile while Maia was still a baby. On her death, Maia had been moved again, this time to the inconsistent and often downright cruel care of his cousin, another internal exile. 

 

When news of the death of his father and older brothers comes to Maia, he discovers that he is now emperor and that he is woefully unprepared for anything that might involve. So the reader goes along with him as he tries to work out what to do, aware of his own limitations and struggling to do the right thing. In the end, it's Maia's essential nature and strength of character that helps him weather a number of storms in just the first few weeks of his reign. 

 

If The Goblin Emperor has one flaw, it's the part played by women (in the first half of the book at least) - along with many other aspects of being an adult, let alone being an emperor, Maia has little experience with members of the opposite sex and they initially all appear to be self-serving schemers with varying degrees of self-awareness. That is partly a result of the book's setting and does get resolved to some extent as female characters become more fleshed out in the later parts of the book. This may be intended to be a reflection of Maia's growing understanding of other people's motivations and how they can differ from his own, I suppose.

 

Anyway, highly recommended and I won't be surprised at all if The Goblin Emperor picks up at least one award this year.