The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor

by Katherine Addison

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765365682
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/03/2015
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 82,428
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.30(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. As Sarah Monette, she is the author of the Doctrine of Labyrinths series and the Locus Award-winning novel The Goblin Emperor; and co-author, with Elizabeth Bear, of the Iskryne series. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

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

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1. News Comes to Edonomee,
2. The Radiance of Cairado,
3. The Alcethmeret,
4. The Funeral at the Ulimeire,
5. The Emperor's Household,
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,
13. Bargaining,
14. Min Nedaö Vechin,
15. The Problem of Setheris,
16. News from Barizhan,
17. Dinner with the Goblin Ambassador,
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,
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,
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,

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The Goblin Emperor 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Katy_madellio_Cooper More than 1 year ago
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.
Jophan More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 3 months ago
There are a lot of characters introduced and you need to keep track of them or else it becomes confusing. Lot of political intrigue and original storylines. Not a story of war. Certainly a story of politics and intrigue within a world that is somewhat unique
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the most original plot but exceedingly well written with complete world building
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just enjoy this book. It's a good story, well told. I'm looking forward to Ms. Addison's next book.
tapestry100 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hope there will be a sequel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
DebyFredericks More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As the title says