Resolution Project: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor (2014)
Written by: Katherine Addison
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Tor Books

Why I Chose It: Here’s what I said back in January 2017:

I’m going to read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I picked it up at World Fantasy in 2016 because it sounded so good, was nominated for every award, and she was there in the dealer’s room when I bought it so she signed it. I hear the world-building is phenomenal and it just sounds like an all-round great read. I’ve been putting it off for the dumbest of reasons: the type is tiny. I’m so used to reading e-books with their enlargeable font and being able to read in the dark that it makes paper books so inconvenient. (Even though I LOVE paper books). Our library system doesn’t have an e-book version of it so I’m going to suck it up and read a book the way they’re supposed to be read, or shove my excuses aside and get the e-book version somehow.


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.

No spoilers below.

Discussion: I tried. I really, really tried. I started with the mass-market edition, then found an e-book edition for my Kobo, and even tried the audio book. Each time I got a bit further, but I still didn’t quite make it to page 100, which is usually the place I make myself read to so that I give a book a fair shake.

The good news is, my failure to finish The Goblin Emperor has nothing to do with the writing, or the story, but everything to do with my tastes as a reader. The writing is solid with complex characters, plenty of conflict, and the worldbuilding is complete. Addison has thought of everything. Though I didn’t finish the book, I can see why it was up for so many awards, and probably should have won a few of them.

The thing is, I was bored. When people tell you the world-building is incredible, it means that there are a lot of descriptions and back-story, and details upon details. I tend not to be a fan of that many details and descriptions. It stops me from allowing my imagination to work because I’m too busy trying to figure out what the author wants me to see. I am a slow reader to begin with, so anything that slows me even further tends to frustrate me. If I’m going to push through reading books like that, there has to be a reason for me to do so. It took me a long time to read The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I enjoyed it, but I probably would have put it down had the movie not been coming out, and I wanted to finish it before I saw the movie. After I saw the movie, I could immerse myself in Middle Earth, and I had no problems with the remainder of the trilogy.

I can also push through a descriptive book, if I can read the names. I know, this makes me sound a bit like an idiot, but I have to admit, the four and five-syllable names that often had similarities (due to family relationship, good world-building there) confused me, and slowed me down even more. That’s where the audio book came in nicely. Though then it brought out just how similar the names were, and the repetitive use of place names that left me wondering why the name of the court had to be used so often when there was only the one ever referred to.

But I don’t want to push through a book. I don’t want to feel like I have to read it. I decided a number of years ago, that if a book didn’t appeal to me, if I got bored, or if for any reason I didn’t want to read a book, I could stop and not feel guilty. I think that is when I decided that I should try to read to at least page 100 to give a book a fair shot. Life is too short, and there are far too many books to read to be spending my time on a book that I don’t want to.

Ultimately, then, I stopped reading because I was bored. Maia, the main character, was interesting, but not enough for me to care about his success. I kind of liked that he had a couple of moments where he could put his abusive cousin in his place, but beyond that, I didn’t get the sense of impending danger or doom, loss or victory. It was all incredibly detailed and didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I’m not necessarily the kind of reader who needs action in every scene. I do love to sink into a world, live with the characters, and go on their adventures with them. So maybe had it not been quite so detailed, and a little lighter-handed on the names of the characters and places, I could have allowed myself to sink into it.

In Conclusion: If you love richly detailed fantasy worlds filled with emperors and courts, then I recommend this book. I really wish I was a different kind of reader, and that my experience with this book had been different. It was a great lesson for me, though, as a writer, to recognize the things I like and don’t like in the books I read.


  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier December 1, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Oh noes! I loves this book. But I agree, it’s not for everyone. Sounds like you gave it more than a fair shot.

    • Sherry Peters December 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      It is truly a beautifully written book, and I have a feeling I am going to regret not finishing it.

      • Shara White December 2, 2017 at 8:36 am

        Maybe there will be a time in the future where you might enjoy it more? That happened to me with Dune.


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