BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Not to be confused with The Goblin King by Shona Husk. Also, not to be confused with the usual goblin creature of the fantasy genre.
I missed the Young Adult movement in the publishing industry. But I heard there is much to be recommended in it. Admittedly. I’ve read a few, if only to keep a respectable conversation with Young Adult authors that I had to privilege to interview. I’ve had conversation with Endgame mastermind and not to mention controversial- James Frey. I also met Claudia Gray and Madeleine Roux. I’ve had a wonderful interview with the Legend series author Marie Lu who told me when asked about why young people love dystopian stories that “High school is like dystopia,” and I think she hit the spot. Looking back, it really was. When you’re young and running on hormones, the future seemed bleak. And somehow, dystopian themes felt appropriate. There is always anguish and fear that you won’t be the adult you want to be when you grow up. That’s why Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen and Divergent’s “Tris” Prior are hits.
If we look at it like this, the Young Adult genre is not much really about furnishing stories in dystopian settings, they are coming of age stories. Usually featuring young protagonists who are thrust into a world that is dark and hopeless, where they must fight and face monstrosities- challenge their identities and gain moral courage.
But as I said, I missed the wagon on that one. But contstant contact with the people who are not young and not much adult pressured me to look into the section and find something that may appeal to me and lo and behold, by my fantasy beard, I saw one. And I am pleased that it brings something we don’t see in the Young Adult genre. It is more hopeful and less futuristic.
The Goblin Emperor is Sarah Monette’s first book under the name Katherine Addison published in 2014.
It tells the story of an exiled prince named Maia who was half-goblin and half-elf (a mix generally sneered in their society). His father, the emperor of this imaginary steampunk empire died in an airship accident (with other heirs to the throne) leaving him to be the only one who has a stake at kingship in the land. He must fly swiftly into the capital and assume the throne, that or become a puppet to a court that will also plot his death once he had exhausted his usefulness. If he wish to live, he must conquer the court, not through force, but through wit and eventually compassion.
Fair warning though, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The book doesn’t feature much action. Not much chase, explosion and the plot moves forwards from one ceremony to another, which could be long and well ceremonious. There is a section about the details of Maia’s ceremonial garb and jewels. There are a lot of correspondence to read and interview (audience with the emperor) with disgruntled relatives. The most action it has are assassination attempts and hastened coronation. But there is also a lovely romance going on but probably not the rosy eyed pining kind. And it’s true what the blurb says, if you’re looking for court intrigues, political machination and a bit off-ed by the heartlessness of House of Cards types, then this book will open up to you in many cold days.
What’s really good about this book is it’s sympathethic characters especially the main protagonist Maia. Abused and neglected as a child, discriminated in society- he transformed these disadvantages into strengths and it’s one of the messages we need to put out there more in the stories we tell young people – more especially to adults!