The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In preparing to read the sequel, I decided I just had to re-read the original. It's been a while and I remembered it being comforting and comfortable for all the potentially harrowing setup that it represented.
The re-read confirms it. It's subtle, careful, heartbreaking, and a good mystery, all wrapped up in a cloak of humility. Odd, that. And, of course, the exploration of racism is quite clear.
That goblin was just the sweetest child emperor I've ever known. He was always courteous and polite, even when he was abducted. He was so centered and contained even during that time he almost took the knife of that assassin. Do you remember his name? Yeah. That windbag elf. Well, I don't care what any of his peers say about this dear child. He's looking forward to the future, I tell you! He even says goodbye to the cleaning staff of his late mother, bless his soul.
This novel, in case you haven't guessed, is a delightful take on normal people raising an Emperor. It is NOT, however, a tale of war, oppression, or magic. There's plenty of intrigues, but mainly it's a coming of age with a very healthy dose of fish out of water syndrome. On a personal note, it was charming and well paced and very, very political. It had elements of stab you in the back, of course, but the focus was mainly on trying to do a good job in a situation where no one seems to trust you. Believe me, I was very charmed.
This delightful novel was part of this year's Hugo nominations, and in spite of the controversy, I'm reading each novel deeply and seriously because I respect and cherish the Hugos. Anyone nominated will carry prestige because we, the readers, want it to be so. The moment we start devaluing the award in our own minds is the moment we lose a little light in our life.
As for being a contender, this novel definitely is. If I read this outside of the controversy or the nomination, I would still be gibbering and drooling about it, because, after all, it turns our archetypal conventions over to cook more evenly.
The writing is clear, the story is suspenseful, and the mystery around his father's death and his own assassination attempt keep everything moving nicely. Most importantly, I felt real sympathy for our dear Emperor. If you think that the story is short on wonder or depth, think again. Everything is vividly imagined and deeply drawn, down to the airships or the clockwork bridge or the guard who sang our young Emperor to sleep.
This novel is a breath of fresh air with a huge heart, and that's saying a lot for a novel about a goblin.
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