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Maia never wanted to rule.

But then the airship carrying Varenechibel Zhas, the 208th Emperor of the Elflands, and his three oldest sons, explodes. Maia, the youngest son of the Emperor, has no choice but to return from exile and take his place on the throne.

Yet not everyone at the Untheileneise Court is welcoming of the late Emperors’ least favoured offspring. And the airship explosion was no accident.

Who would want the Emperor dead? And, with the line of succession falling to Maia and his underage nephew, who might be next?

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) was published in 2014 by Tor Books.

The setting is steampunk-lite, a world growing in technological advancements and populated by elves, goblins, and their mixed heritage offspring. At its heart sits the Untheileneise Court, part Palace of Versailles, part Japanese Imperial Court, wholly original and with centuries of archaic tradition. 

Now add a friendless mixed-race orphan who must become the Emperor. 

And discover who is responsible for the deaths of all aboard his father’s airship. 

All while trying not to make mistakes and even more enemies.

The murder mystery and the ongoing threat of assassination add spice, drawing the reader into the world. These tropes heighten the risk of failure and add tension to almost every interaction. 

The Empire feels like it’s on the cusp of social and political change. In the Court, there’s subtle push-back against the socially enforced gender norms and whispers of education for women. Court families are forced into genteel poverty by a tradition that requires them to have a set of rooms close to the Emperor. In the nearby cities and towns, there’s talk of workers’ rights and the need for safer working conditions.

But at its heart, ‘The Goblin Emperor’ is a fantasy of manners. 

We follow Maia as he begins his ascent to the throne. Here’s no swaggering, posturing princeling, eager to prove himself. Instead, we have a quiet, thoughtful, empathetic introvert as our hero; one with steel at his core.

Any lesser character would crumble under the almost overwhelming pressure just to exist as an Emperor. But Maia wants to be a good Emperor; one who learns from his predecessor’s mistakes. He wants to make the right choices, even knowing that others expect him to fail. 

And there’s so much to do. Maia might just die of exhaustion before an assassin even gets close! 

‘The Goblin Emperor’ has two companion novels, ‘The Witness for the Dead’ and ‘The Grief of Stones’.


Mary Wyrd is a Freelance Copywriter for creatives and small businesses. You might have read her work without even knowing it. She uses what spare time she has to read books and write reviews.

To find her in the wild, she sometimes lurks on Twitter @marywyrd or her blog on www.marywyrd.com