A vividly imagined debut fantasy of court intrigue in a steampunk-inflected magical world from Katherine Addison.
Unbound Worlds 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time
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 older sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place on the Untheileneise Throne.
The Goblin Emperor, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)|
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
The Goblin Emperor
By Katherine Addison, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty Associates, LLCCopyright © 2014 Katherine Addison
All rights reserved.
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?"
"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.
"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?"
"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."
"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.CHAPTER 2
The Radiance of Cairado
The airship Radiance of Cairado hung ominously beside her mooring mast like an isolated thundercloud against the predawn sky. Maia had not been in an airship since the age of eight, when he had been brought to the Untheileneise Court for his mother's funeral, and his memories of that time were full of darkness. He remembered praying to Ulis to let him die, too.
The crew of the Radiance were all very solemn; they knew about the Wisdom of Choharo, and he saw grief and fear in their faces.
On impulse, when the captain greeted him with a mumbled "Serenity" at the foot of the mooring mast, Maia stopped and said quietly, "We have nothing but confidence in you and your crew."
The captain was startled into looking up; Maia met his eyes and smiled at him. After a moment, the captain's ears came up, and he bowed again, more deeply. "Serenity," he said in a clear and far stronger voice.
Maia ascended the narrow iron staircase that spiraled around the mooring mast. On the tiny platform at the top, a crewwoman was waiting to steady the emperor into the passenger cabin.
"Serenity," she said stiffly, and offered her arm.
"We thank you," Maia said, accepting help he did not need. The crewwoman seemed almost as startled as the captain had been.
Airships were not primarily intended for passengers, but along with cargo, they transported couriers and other government servants. Maia had refused to allow Setheris to inconvenience the other passengers—four couriers, two missioners, and an elderly maza—by commandeering the ship, and he suffered for his charity now under their wide-eyed, breathlessly silent stares. His translation to emperor had failed to work any comparable miracle on his wardrobe—indeed, he only wished it had worked a miracle on his person—so that while he was correctly dressed in formal mourning, each garment bore betraying signs that black had been at least its third dyeing, and the whole had not been worn in over two years, since the death of the emperor's sister, the Archduchess Ebreneän. The clothes, castoffs of Setheris's, had been too large then; now, they were barely large enough. Lacking tashin sticks or combs, he had had to make do with braiding his hair back neatly and pinning it off his neck, but the style was more suited to a child than to an adult, much less to an emperor.
He took the seat that Setheris and the Lord Chancellor's messenger had left between them. If the messenger recognized in the new emperor's scrambling departure the thwarting of his own master's plans, he gave no sign of it, entering with helpful thoroughness into Setheris's travel arrangements. There was nothing to say he was not as devoted to Maia's service as Setheris was. Maia smiled at the irony.
He and Setheris had disliked each other from the moment they had met, at the funeral of Maia's mother, the Empress Chenelo. The airship that brought her body to the Untheileneise Court from the manor to which her husband had relegated her also brought her grief-sick eight-year-old son. Varenechibel IV took no interest in his youngest child, and immediately after the funeral service, Maia was handed into the care of Setheris Nelar and both of them relegated to the former hunting lodge Edonomee, where they had lived in mutual antipathy ever since.
Maia glanced sideways; Setheris was glowering—insofar as he could tell—at a perfectly innocuous piece of woodwork on the opposite side of the cabin. He had never seen Setheris when he was not angry, save for those times when he had drunk himself into a maudlin stupor. Maia's adolescence had been made a misery by Setheris's anger, and he would bear until his dying day an ugly scrawl of scars on his left forearm, where a blow of Setheris's had knocked him into the elaborate and hideous wrought-iron antlers that adorned the fire screen in Edonomee's main hall.
To do Setheris what justice he deserved, he had been truly horrified, and since that incident, which had enlivened Maia's otherwise utterly unremarkable fifteenth winter, he had been a good deal more circumspect with his fists. But it did not make him like Maia any better, and it was something Maia knew he himself would never be entirely able to forgive.
The crewwoman stepped into the cabin, securing the door behind her. She cleared her throat—out of nervousness, since there was no need to attract the attention of the deathly silent passengers—and said, "Your Serenity, the captain has taken the helm, and we are preparing to cast off."
Setheris's elbow slammed discreetly into Maia's ribs, and he said, "Thank you."
The crewwoman bowed, relief written in every line of her body, and went to the front of the cabin, where there was a speaking tube that communicated with the cockpit. Maia had only a moment to wonder if he would be able to tell when the Radiance of Cairado cast off from the mast; then there was the slightest of sideways lurches, and the airship was rising into the dawn sky.
Excerpted from The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2014 Katherine Addison. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART ONE THE CRASH OF THE WISDOM OF CHOHARO,
1. News Comes to Edonomee,
2. The Radiance of Cairado,
3. The Alcethmeret,
4. The Funeral at the Ulimeire,
5. The Emperor's Household,
PART TWO THE CORONATION OF EDREHASIVAR VII,
6. The Widow Empress,
7. The Tomb of the Empress Chenelo,
8. The Coronation of Edrehasivar VII,
9. The Report of the Witnesses for the Wisdom of Choharo,
10. The Witness for the Dead,
11. The Funeral and the Wake,
12. The Princess and the Witness,
14. Min Nedaö Vechin,
15. The Problem of Setheris,
16. News from Barizhan,
17. Dinner with the Goblin Ambassador,
PART THREE THE WINTER EMPEROR,
18. Varenechibel's Legacies,
19. Thara Celehar's Grief,
20. The Proposal of the Clocksmiths of Zhaö,
21. Mer Celehar Goes North,
22. The Bridge over the Upazhera,
23. The Opposition of the Court,
24. The Revethvoran,
25. Matters of the Aftermath,
26. The Clocksmiths and the Corazhas,
PART FOUR WINTERNIGHT,
27. The Great Avar Arrives,
28. A Letter from Mer Celehar,
29. A Ball and a Deathbed,
30. The Nineteenth Birthday of Edrehasivar VII and the Winternight Ball,
31. A Conspiracy Unearthed,
32. Shulivar, Bralchenar, and Narchanezhen,
33. The Great Avar Departs,
PART FIVE EDREHASIVAR THE BRIDGE-BUILDER,
34. Building Bridges,
35. The Bridge over the Istandaärtha,
Extracts from A Handbook for Travelers in the Elflands,
A Listing of Persons, Places, Things, and Gods,
By Katherine Addison,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
There are books I read that I can recognize as excellent. The Goblin Emperor is not only excellent, I love it. Maia works hard at being a decent person.
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.
This was a truly incredible read, and I have already been through it twice. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a standalone novel with incredible characters and an engaging plot.
Maia, half-elf and half-goblin, and relegated to a distant estate by his father the Emperor, must find his way at court after unexpectedly inheriting the throne of the Elflands. He gradually gains both allies and enemies, while balancing a growing firmness with his innate kindness. All the characters come through clearly - no cardboard here. The author shows us people at many levels of society, not only the rich and powerful, and it is clear that Maia cares about them as well. We also meet some of his goblin relatives from his mother's country. The racial aspects of the two peoples (goblins are looked down upon in Maia's country) are present but not emphasized. I've read this book three or four times now, and while I know what is going to happen now, it still moves me.
As the title says
Not the most original plot but exceedingly well written with complete world building
I just enjoy this book. It's a good story, well told. I'm looking forward to Ms. Addison's next book.
The best review I could write for The Goblin Emperor is simply go and read it. I could go on and on ad nauseam about how much I love this book, but I don't think there is enough room in this post for that. The book grabbed me from the very start, as we meet Maia at the moment he discovers that his father, the emperor, and three older brothers have just died in an accident, which makes him now the emperor of the elflands. The only problem is, he's been in exile for ten years as he is a hobgoblin, half elf and and half goblin (his father didn't want him in court), and as such he has had no training in even the most basic of court etiquette, let alone what it takes to be emperor. What follows is a story permeated with court intrigue as Maia learns very quickly how to navigate the courtiers surrounding him as well as a mystery, as the accident that killed his father and brothers may not have been an accident after all. I had to read in small chunks; I didn't want to rush through the book too quickly. The story infiltrated my dreams, which doesn't always happen with books anymore, and I know it will stay with me for a long time to come. Maia is such a captivating character, as he quickly comes to terms with his place in life. If there was anything I found "wrong" with the book is I felt that maybe Maia picked up on how to navigate the court system and its customs maybe just a tad too quickly. For having never been to court or been schooled on court etiquette, he did seem to have a knack for what was needed of him in his role of emperor. If you can call that a drawback, that's the only one I can think of. Addison has created such a rich and believable world, which actually required very little world building in the beginning as the whole point of the story is discovering the world with Maia. The magic here is very sparse, and there's a little bit of steampunk dropped in for good measure. Again, just go read it. It's such a marvelous story and I'm anxious to see what magical lands Addison will take us to next.
Hope there will be a sequel
I seem to enjoy politics just as much in fantasy novels...as 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.
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.