Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

June 14, 2014 3 stars, Book Review 15 ★★★

Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine AddisonThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

A vividly imagined fantasy of court intrigue and dark magics in a steampunk-inflected world, by a brilliant young talent.

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.

This exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.


The Goblin Emperor is a high fantasy novel by Katherine Addison. The book is beautifully written and is definitely the read and savor type. There is nothing that is going to jump out of the story, grab you, and take you for a ride. Just a slow cruise through the trials and tribulations of an Emperor in the amazing world that Addison creates for her readers.  Maia (the goblin emperor) begins life as the son of an unloved wife of a powerful Emperor. When his mother dies at a young age, Maia is sent with an obscure Uncle to live far from court, and to never be spoken of again. When the Emperor and his favored sons die in what appears to be a freak airship accident all of a sudden Maia finds himself on the way to court and before he knows it becomes Emperor. Now he must overcome the short comings of his education and his lack of experience with the complexities of court, and find the backbone to rule an Empire.

‘In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.’ 

‘You consider that unjust, Serenity?’ 

‘We consider it cruel,’ Maia said. ‘And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.’
― Katherine AddisonThe Goblin Emperor

Beautiful language, amazing world, slow story.

This really is a slow scenic book. Through the whole thing there isn’t really even an action scene. There is one place where I seriously thought to myself “FINALLY, something big is going to happen!” ONE chapter later, it was over… So, if you love the idea of exploring a made up court’s intrigues, this is your book! For me The Goblin Emperor failed in a very majestic way. There were elements I loved, like the language and the use of some steampunk type contraptions and settings, but they couldn’t overcome the lack of depth of story. For an epic fantasy, it was certainly lacking an epic story. As you can see from the quote, the language is beautiful and the descriptions are vivid, but unfortunately even though I love rooting for an underdog and enjoy watching characters learn new skills, half way through the book I realized I still didn’t really know what the story was actually about. There is a feeling of building, that the story will start anytime. I just knew the next page something eventful would occur and kick off the epic part, unfortunately I felt that way on the 30th page and on the 230th page.  His Serenity (what they call the emperor) spent so much time feeling inadequate and trying not to look like a frightened mouse, that I found myself not really feeling anything for him other than tired. I definitely felt tired for him. He spends most of the book hoping to find a friend, any friend, as a reader I wanted to reach through the pages and tell him to put on his big girl panties and do something interesting.

I am hopeful that any sequels to The Goblin Emperor, if they come, will be a bit more action oriented? I think the author perhaps got a little too into building the world and gave maybe too much everyday humdrum detail. Or perhaps, because I am normally a HUGE fan of epic fantasy and have read a LOT of it, my high expectations of this book were bound to lead to a smidge of disappointment. Overall, it was still a good book if albeit a slow one.

Read a guest post from the author on HOW GOBLINS GET A BAD RAP

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*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. To view our full Blog Policy, click here.


Gamer girl extraordinaire, law student, mother of twin boys and one lil girl. I can often be found taking care of my family, working on home renovation projects, reading, gaming, and all the while text warring with Tabitha.

15 Responses to “Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison”

    • Tina

      I wasn’t even sure there was a “main” story, it seemed very realistic in the fact that it was comprised of a hundred very minor stories and a few medium stories. Unfortunately most of us read fantasy to escape real.
      Tina recently posted…Review: Hungry by H.A. SwainMy Profile

    • Tina

      I also had read positive reviews, maybe that’s why my expectations were so high. There is a lot of little elements, just never that big climax in story plot you think is going to be there.
      Tina recently posted…Review: Hungry by H.A. SwainMy Profile

  1. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    SO much sympathy. I DNF-ed this. It. Was. So. S-L-O-W. So what did I do? I decided to take a break from it. My break ended up lasting longer that I intended (nearly two weeks), and when I picked it up again, I didn’t know who anyone was anymore b/c of all the bizarre names. I’m glad that you at least enjoyed it for the world-building and writing. Great review, Tina 😉
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley ColeMy Profile