Synopsis: 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.
Review: I have a weakness for goblins, I will confess. So yes: the mention of a half-goblin hero made me want to read this book, even though I feared the story might be a bit too dry for my usual tastes.
This turned out to be a beautiful read though!
Maia (the lead character) turns out to be half goblin and half elf. The goblins in this book are another kind of goblin than I hoped for, but that was about the only disappointment I encountered, and there was lots of good stuff to counter that disappointment.
Maia has been living secluded – with a mentor who despises him – for most of his life, when at nineteen he is suddenly pushed in the role of emperor, because his father and older brothers all die in a terrible accident. I liked Maia from the start. He’s young, unworldly, and has no clue how to be an emperor. He does know he doesn’t want to be like his father, so he tries hard to find his own way to be what people expect him to be.
I will confess I hadn’t expected to love this book as much as I did. I’ve read my share of court intrigues, and they can be boring if the author isn’t careful. The Goblin Emperor didn’t bore me for one second though. I was totally gripped by Maia’s struggles to learn how to rule, figure out who to trust, and keep holding on to his ideals in the process.
I was surprised by how much emotion there was in this story. I must admit I shed more than one tear while reading this book. Of course there’s lots of politics and back-stabbing going on, but at the heart this story is about Maia, his search for who he is, and where he belongs. After a lonely childhood, Maia longs for friends, and his attempts at reaching out are heart-breaking at times. I rooted for him to find people he could rely on, and to succeed in becoming the emperor he wants to be.
All in all this is a wonderful read that moved me and drew me in. I was sad when I finished it, because I didn’t want to say goodbye. I will most certainly reread this pearl in the future.
Pearls Cast Before A McPig