marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

What a marvelous tale this is.

Maia, the forth son of the emperor of the Elflands, born to an unloved wife, is woken from his sleep in the unpleasant corner of the empire that he's been relegated to -- with the news that his father, and all of his brothers, died in an airship explosion.  Maia's half-goblin and ill-educated, but the law is clear:  he's emperor.  And his guardian, despite his nasty side, points out the important thing about the letter:  the Lord Chancellor did not mention his coronation, only his father's funeral.

A night journey by airship brings him to the capital in time to assert control over that.  Still, he is badly educated about everything he needs to know, his Lord Chancellor treats him with contempt, his sister-in-law and the mother of his heir hates him, he can not even make small talk or dance, he understands little of his ministers' meetings.  Meanwhile, he must endure being endlessly dressed in white by his attendants, acquires bodyguards, meets with his nephew and heir, goes to the opera, learns about sabotage, hears about people who want to build a bridge, discusses political matches, chooses a reign name, is surprised by news of a state visit and receives, has someone buy him a horse, and much more.

A wonderfully elaborate court.   Handles the use of formal and informal pronouns graciously even in English.

Technically, this is steampunk.  Factories and clockwork feature as well as the airships, but they are background to Maia's tale

I have in the past expressed objections to humans-with-pointy-ears also known as elves, but if all the authors used the ears as well as they are in this book, I wouldn't mind at all.  It's not that the ears are large and pointy (indeed, I'm not sure they are pointy), but they are mobile.  Which she never forgets.  The most common description of expression revealing your emotions revolves about ear positions, done so deftly that you don't notice she's feeding the information about what the ears mean simultaneously with using them to signal that meaning.

The religion is also nicely done.  It's polytheistic, but the religious structure wrapped about it feels convincing.  Helps that it's not center-stage, no doubt.
Tags: fiction reviews: high fantasy, fiction reviews: steampunk

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