The Goblin Emperor

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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...

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The Goblin Emperor

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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.

Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ambitious and meticulously executed worldbuilding brings an animated dazzle to this exceptional assemblage of character studies and complex encounters, while the expressive evocation of its youthful protagonist’s shyness and insecurity adds an affecting authenticity to the steampunk-infused fantasy setting. Crafted with a preternatural deftness, the elf kingdom of Ethuveraz is a multilayered masterwork. Its density of arcana, language, ritual, and protocol staggers the long-exiled 18-year-old half-goblin heir, Maia Drazhar, when he is thrust onto the imperial throne after his distant father and more favored brothers are assassinated by an act of airship sabotage. Facing ridicule, racism, and outright hostility, Maia nonetheless stumblingly shoulders the burden, his own outcast status becoming his greatest strength. Acts of kindness and empathy begin to earn him the acceptance, if not outright affection, of his courtiers and the populace. Less a novel than a series of anecdotes, this stalwart endeavor, which is fantasist Sarah Monette’s first work under the Addison name, is carried by the strength of atmosphere and Maia’s resonant good-heartedness. Readers will hope for many more tales of Ethuveraz. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A spellbinding and genuinely affecting drama. Unreservedly recommended." —-Kirkus Starred Review
Library Journal
★ 03/15/2014
The assassination of Emperor Varenechibel and three of his sons was shocking to the people of Ethuveraz, but none was more shocked than 18-year-old Maia, the youngest son and almost forgotten heir to the Elfin throne. The half-elf, half-goblin Maia had lived in exile since his birth when his now-dead goblin mother was banished by the emperor soon after becoming pregnant. When he takes the throne, Maia must adjust not only to life at court but to the knowledge that there are many who don't believe he should rule. VERDICT Court intrigue and politics are popular fodder for fantasy novels, but rarely have they been done better than in this fantastic new novel from Sarah Monette (writing as Addison). The writing is lovely, with characters who live and breathe. Maia, especially, will tug on the heartstrings of even the most hardened reader as he struggles to find kindness and allies in the imperial court.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-16
New fantasy from an author who, as Sarah Monette, wrote the Doctrine of Labyrinth series. Eighteen-year-old half-goblin Maia, the despised youngest son of the Emperor, lives in wretched circumstances, exiled from the Imperial Court and overseen by his brutal cousin, Setheris. But then a courier arrives with the news that his father and elder brothers have been killed in an airship crash. Stunned and disconcerted, Maia must take his place as the rightful Emperor of the Elflands. Armed only with his quick wits, empathy and natural humility, his first task is to face down the arrogant and contemptuous Lord Chancellor, Uleris Chavar, and insist that he be crowned before his father's funeral. Alone and friendless, bewildered by the complex politics and economics of the court—and soon informed that his father's death was caused by sabotage, not accident—Maia finds the burden almost unsupportable. He comes to rely on Csevet, the courier who becomes his secretary, for information and advice and on his guards Cala and Beshelar, who are sworn to protect him. Gradually he finds ways to solve intractable problems. He treats servants as people and women as equals, an approach that wins him many admirers but also enrages the more traditional nobles. Addison patiently and tellingly paints in the backdrop, mingling steampunk elements and low-key magic with imperial intricacies. There are powerful character studies and a plot full of small but deadly traps among which the sweet-natured, perplexed Maia must navigate. The result is a spellbinding and genuinely affecting drama. Unreservedly recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781494502775
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHERINE ADDISON’s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

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Read an Excerpt

News Comes to Edonomee
Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.
“Cousin? What…” He sat up, rubbing at his eyes with one hand. “What time is it?”
“Get up!” Setheris snarled. “Hurry!”
Obediently, Maia crawled out of bed, clumsy and sleep-sodden. “What’s toward? Is there a fire?”
“Get thy clothes on.” Setheris shoved yesterday’s clothes at him. Maia dropped them, fumbling with the strings of his nightshirt, and Setheris hissed with exasperation as he bent to pick them up. “A messenger from the court. That’s what’s toward.”
“A message from my father?”
“Is’t not what I said? Merciful goddesses, boy, canst do nothing for thyself? Here!” He jerked the nightshirt off, caring neither for the knotted strings nor for Maia’s ears, and shoved his clothes at him again. Maia struggled into drawers, trousers, shirt, and jacket, aware that they were wrinkled and sweat-stained, but unwilling to try Setheris’s ill temper by saying so. Setheris watched grimly by the single candle’s light, his ears flat against his head. Maia could not find his stockings, nor would Setheris give him time to search. “Come along!” he said as soon as Maia had his jacket fastened, and Maia followed him barefoot out of the room, noticing in the stronger light that while Setheris was still properly and fully attired, his face was flushed. So he had not been wakened from sleep by the emperor’s messenger, but only because he had not yet been to bed. Maia hoped uneasily that Setheris had not drunk enough metheglin to mar the glossy perfection of his formal court manners.
Maia ran his hands through his hair, fingers catching on knots in his heavy curls. It would not be the first time one of his father’s messengers had witnessed him as unkempt as a half-witted ragpicker’s child, but that did not help with the miserable midnight imaginings: So, tell us, how looked our son? He reminded himself it was unlikely his father ever asked after him in the first place and tried to keep his chin and ears up as he followed Setheris into the lodge’s small and shabby receiving room.
The messenger was maybe a year or so older than Maia himself, but elegant even in his road-stained leathers. He was clearly full-blooded elvish, as Maia was not; his hair was milkweed-pale, and his eyes the color of rain. He looked from Setheris to Maia and said, “Are you the Archduke Maia Drazhar, only child of Varenechibel the Fourth and Chenelo Drazharan?”
“Yes,” Maia said, bewildered.
And then bewilderment compounded bewilderment, as the messenger deliberately and with perfect dignity prostrated himself on the threadbare rug. “Your Imperial Serenity,” he said.
“Oh, get up, man, and stop babbling!” Setheris said. “We understood that you had messages from the Archduke’s father.”
“Then you understand what we do not,” the messenger said, rising again to his feet, as graceful as a cat. “We bear messages from the Untheileneise Court.”
Maia said hastily, merely to prevent the altercation from escalating, “Please, explain.”
“Your Serenity,” the messenger said. “The airship Wisdom of Choharo crashed yesterday, sometime between sunrise and noon. The Emperor Varenechibel the Fourth, the Prince Nemolis, the Archduke Nazhira, and the Archduke Ciris were all on board. They were returning from the wedding of the Prince of Thu-Athamar.”
“And the Wisdom of Choharo crashed,” Maia said slowly, carefully.
“Yes, Serenity,” said the messenger. “There were no survivors.”
For five pounding heartbeats, the words made no sense. Nothing made sense; nothing had made sense since he had woken with Setheris’s grip hurting his shoulder. And then it was suddenly, pitilessly clear. As if from a very long distance away, he heard his own voice saying, “What caused the crash?”
“Does it matter?” Setheris said.
“Serenity,” said the messenger with a deliberate nod in Maia’s direction. “They do not yet know. But the Lord Chancellor has sent Witnesses, and it is being investigated.”
“Thank you,” said Maia. He knew neither what he felt nor what he ought to feel, but he knew what he ought to do, the next necessary thing. “You said … there are messages?”
“Yes, Serenity.” The messenger turned and picked up his dispatch case from where it lay on the side table. There was only one letter within, which the messenger held out. Setheris snatched the letter and broke the seal savagely, as if he still believed the messenger to be lying.
He scanned the paper, his customary frown deepening into a black scowl, then flung it at Maia and stalked from the room. Maia grabbed at it ineffectually as it fluttered to the floor.
The messenger knelt to retrieve it before Maia could and handed it to him without a flicker of expression.
Maia felt his face heating, his ears lowering, but he knew better than to try to explain or apologize for Setheris. He bent his attention to the letter. It was from his father’s Lord Chancellor, Uleris Chavar:
To the Archduke Maia Drazhar, heir to the imperial throne of Ethuveraz, greetings in this hour of greatest grief.
Knowing that Your Imperial Serenity will want all honor and respect paid to your late father and brothers, we have ordered arrangements put in train for a full ceremonial funeral in three days’ time, that is, on the twenty-third instant. We will notify the five principalities, also Your Imperial Serenity’s sister in Ashedro. We have already ordered the courier office to put airships at their disposal, and we have no doubt that they will use all necessary haste to reach the Untheileneise Court in good time for the funeral.
We do not, of course, know what Your Imperial Serenity’s plans may be, but we hold ourself ready to implement them.
With true sorrow and unswerving loyalty,
Uleris Chavar
Maia looked up. The messenger was watching him, as impassive as ever; only the angle of his ears betrayed his interest.
“I … we must speak with our cousin,” he said, the constructions of the formal first person awkward and unaccustomed. “Do you … that is, you must be tired. Let us summon a manservant to tend to your needs.”
“Your Serenity is very kind,” the messenger said, and if he knew that there were only two menservants in the entire household of Edonomee, he gave no sign.
Maia rang the bell, knowing that birdlike Pelchara would be waiting eagerly for a chance to find out what was happening. Haru, who did all the outside work, was probably still asleep; Haru slept like the dead, and the whole household knew it.
Pelchara popped in, his ears up and his eyes bright and inquisitive. “This gentleman,” Maia said, mortified to realize that he did not know the messenger’s name, “has traveled hard. Please see that he has everything he requires.” He faltered before the thought of explaining the news to Pelchara, mumbled, “I will be with my cousin,” and hurried out.
He could see light under Setheris’s door, and could hear his cousin’s brisk, bristling stride. Let him not have stopped for the metheglin decanter, Maia thought, a brief, hopeless prayer, and tapped on the door.
“Who is’t?” At least he did not sound any drunker than he had a quarter hour ago.
“Maia. May I—?”
The door opened with savage abruptness, and Setheris stood in the opening, glaring. “Well? What chews on thy tail, boy?”
“Cousin,” Maia said, almost whispering, “what must I do?”
“What must thou do?” Setheris snorted laughter. “Thou must be emperor, boy. Must rule all the Elflands and banish thy kindred as thou seest fit. Why com’st thou whining to me of what thou must do?”
“Because I don’t know.”
“Moon-witted hobgoblin,” Setheris said, but it was contempt by reflex; his expression was abstracted.
“Yes, cousin,” Maia said meekly.
After a moment, Setheris’s eyes sharpened again, but this time without the burning anger. “Thou wish’st advice?”
“Yes, cousin.”
“Come in,” Setheris said, and Maia entered his cousin’s bedchamber for the first time.
It was as austere as Setheris himself—no mementoes of the Untheileneise Court, no luxuries. Setheris waved Maia to the only chair and himself sat on the bed. “Thou’rt right, boy. The wolves are waiting to devour thee. Hast thou the letter?”
“Yes, cousin.” Maia handed Setheris the letter, now rather crumpled and the worse for wear. Setheris read it, frowning again, but this time his ears were cocked thoughtfully. When he had finished, he folded the letter neatly, his long white fingers smoothing the creases. “He presumes much, does Uleris.”
“He does?” And then, realizing: “Dost know him?”
“We were enemies for many years,” Setheris said, shrugging it aside. “And I see he has not changed.”
“What mean’st thou?”
“Uleris has no reason to love thee, boy.”
“He says he’s loyal.”
“Yes. But loyal to what? Not to thee, for thou art merely the last and least favored child of his dead master, who wished thee not on the throne, as well thou know’st. Use thy wits, boy—an thou hast any.”
“What do you mean?”
“Merciful goddesses, grant me patience,” Setheris said ostentatiously to the ceiling. “Consider, boy. Thou art emperor. What must thou do first?”
“Cousin, this is not the time for riddles.”
“And it is not a riddle I pose thee.” Setheris shut his mouth and glared at him, and after a moment, Maia realized.
“The coronation.”
“Ha!” Setheris brought his hands together sharply, making Maia jump. “Exactly. So why, I ask thee, does thy coronation not figure largely in Uleris’s plans or, indeed, at all?”
“The funeral—”
“No! Thou think’st as a child, not as an emperor. The dead are dead, and they care not for the honor Uleris prates of, as well he knows. It is the living power that must concern thee, as it concerns him.”
Think, boy,” Setheris said, leaning forward, his cold eyes alight with fervor. “If thou art capable—if thou hast ever thought before in thy life—think. Thou com’st to the Untheileneise Court, the funeral is held. What then?”
“I speak to … oh.”
“Thou seest.”
“Yes.” Better than Setheris might care to realize, for it was at his cousin’s hands that Maia had learned this particular lesson; by waiting, he put himself in the position of a supplicant to Chavar, and supplicants could always be denied. “Then what must I do?”
Setheris said, “Thou must countermand Uleris. Meaning that thou must reach the Untheileneise Court before he has time to entrench himself.”
“But how can I?” It took most of a week to reach the court from Edonomee.
“Airship,” Setheris said as if it were obvious.
Maia’s stomach knotted. “I couldn’t.”
“Thou must. Or thou shalt be a puppet dancing at the end of Uleris’s strings, and to a tune of his choosing. And thy nineteenth birthday may very well see thee dead.”
Maia bowed his head. “Yes, cousin.”
“The airship that brought Chavar’s lapdog here can take us back. They’ll be waiting for him. Now, go. Make thyself fit to be seen.”
“Yes, cousin,” Maia said, and did not contest Setheris’s assumption that he would be traveling to the court with the new emperor.

Copyright © 2014 by Katherine Addison

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 6, 2014

    This book has been getting glowing reviews all over the place an

    This book has been getting glowing reviews all over the place and I have to admit, I was afraid it wouldn't live up to those reviews. Fortunately, they all focus on the same thing: the excellence of the world-building, the subtlety of characterization and the sheer likability of the protagonist, Maia, the goblin emperor of the title.

    This is a story about the value of simple kindness and the importance of staying true to who you are. The writing is so clean and clear that it's possible not to notice it (and I always notice the writing), and the story itself is so rich that I start re-reading it the day after I finished it. The layers support that; there were things I missed in my original read that I'm noticing now.

    I highly recommend this book. It's lovely.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014

    Very nice

    Hope there will be a sequel

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2014

    Political Drama mainly..but great

    I seem to enjoy politics just as much in fantasy a do in real life....except fantasy politics has fewer ulcers, and less moments where I want to break things across people's heads.

    What I find amazing about this book, is that it pretty much takes place all in one location. There are no adventures to far of lands; or dragons to ride; or power hungry, raging Gods to stop, and no grand romance to swoon over...yet you are still pulled into the story and kept interested from start to finish. The drama is mainly internal and all from one character.

    When we meet Maia, he is appears to be a meek/cowed boy of 18. He has lived with his abusive guardian in some far flung province from since the death of his mother when he was a boy of 8. He was sent there by his father the Emperor, who has no love for him because of his forced marriage to his goblin mother. When she dies, rather than see the boy, who reminds him of what he views as a mistake in his life, he sends him away and forgets him. By all Maia's imaginings, living his life in obscurity, with a drunk guardian that hates him, would be his life till he dies. but then fate steps in and his father and all of his brothers die in a tragic incident...leaving him the only living son of the last Emperor...and of course, now Emperor of all the Elf lands.

    So we follow Maia as he enters a place he has no knowledge of, and has to deal people who only know him from the eyes of his late father and think he is nothing but a dimwitted "hobgoblin" they can manipulate and try to use for their own ends. He is full of doubt and fear and has little faith in his ability or people's view of him. And that is where the main drama comes from...himself. His struggle to figure out who is he is, to accept himself, to figure out what he is capable of, and what type of ruler he will be...and of course dodging some coup attempts. He is a fish out of water, but he proves that he has the ability to fake it, until he makes it.

    I really did enjoy it the story, because as contained as it was, it never felt limited or claustrophobic. It slowed down a bit towards the very end, and became a bit...hmm Gary stuish? Which is why it did not rate a bit higher. BUT...throughout the majority of the read it held my attention and kept me very interested. I liked Maia and rooted for him, and saw his ability and strengths and goodness, the things that show he could be a good ruler, even if he never always saw them.

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  • Posted May 31, 2014

    The author has considerable ambition to create a dense and layer

    The author has considerable ambition to create a dense and layered world. So many titles and names left me a bit at sea, I must confess. Although, in this, I was right along with the protagonist who also was at sea being suddenly promoted to emperor. I thought the author also did a good job showing all the layers of custom and bureaucracy surrounding a monarchy, and what a handicap it was for Maia not to have grown up with this knowledge.

    Maia himself is very sympathetic and I was cheering for him all the way through. He struggles with the choices he has to make, but manages to bring fresh air to what seems like a very hidebound court. Perhaps everything fell out a little too neatly his way, but I still prefer it to some of the darker "high fantasy" where characters die left and right.

    Parents with kids under 12 need not worry about the content in terms of violence and sexuality. However, keeping the characters and vocabulary straight is likely to challenge younger readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2014

    This book is an amazing combination of intrigue, steampunk, and

    This book is an amazing combination of intrigue, steampunk, and high fantasy if you turn the clock forward on their technology a few centuries. I truly enjoyed it and find myself reading it again and again, and noticing new details each time.

    The world-building and characterization are very well done, and the writing itself shows a high degree of skill. At first I thought that I would become tired of the main character, that he would be another almost-perfect good guy with only admirable flaws (you know, like being too generous), but I was really pleased that the author managed to inject the anxiety, awkwardness, and lapses in judgement that I remember from my own teenage years. I find myself really fascinated seeing his first steps into true adulthood.

    I just wish there were a sequel! Failing that, I would love to see the story told from the point of view of one of the other major characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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