Re-Reading My Favorite Books: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Updated: May 2
Welcome back! We are on book 2 of re-reading my favorite books, and I have already begun on book 3. On my last review, I received a comment about how reading is only something one can do when one has "free time," and I'd like to address that common misconception in this post. Let us examine the reasons we tend to think that we don't have time to read and what a shift in perspective can offer us.
If you are someone who thinks, "I should read that book, but I don't have time right now," or "If I had more free time, or was on vacation, then I could finally read a book," or even, "I should read more books, but I'm so exhausted at the end of the day, it's just not something I want to do," then you are not alone. People who DO read for leisure have thought the same things as you. The difference between people who read a lot of books and people who wish they read for fun lies in forming a distinction between these two thoughts: "I am busy" and "I want to read a book." There are full-time parents who read books in the small moments they are waiting to pick up their kid from an event, friend's house, school, etc. There are hard-working people whose hands are constantly busy with cleaning, creating, building, but they still listen to audiobook after audiobook. There are professionals who are constantly putting out one fire after another in their coorporate position but listen to audiobooks on their way to and from work, or make sure to set aside time to unwind in a quiet corner with a book when they get home. The truth of the matter is that if you want to read, you can! I empower you to find the solution that best fits with your life, and expand your mind through reading.
There is a meditative quality to reading which does not exist in the experience of watching television, scrolling through social media, or going down the Youtube rabbit hole. Your brain while reading is lighting up, and your mind is disappearing into another world or person's perspective. This is not to say that TV, social media, or any other activity is inferior to reading, but it is important to recognize how these experiences are different. When I am stressed or anxious, I noticed how I would always pick up my phone and open Instagram or Youtube. The pretty images or videos of people mirroring my own opinions back at me seemed like a comfort, but whenever I finally put my phone down (sometimes hours later), I never felt any better. I usually felt worse.
Social media is a tool for communication. TV and movies are a form of storytelling. Youtube and Tiktok provide entertaining and educational videos accessible for free to creators and viewers. Reddit is a public forum of ideas. All of these things can serve a purpose in your life, if you wish it. But to exclusively consume one in every moment of your free time would lead to a pretty massive imbalance in what your brain is getting. So, I invite you to consider how you can balance your mind and your life with more variety. And I encourage you to include reading in the times you would usually be including one of the things above. ALL forms of reading "count" as reading: audiobooks, e-books, physical books, etc.
My advice is to pick the form of a book that most closely fits with your actions when you would usually be consuming some leisure media. Do you watch TV or youtube on your phone while eating? Download the free Kindle app to your phone, purchase the e-book version of a book you've been wanting to read, and read on your phone while you eat. Usually scroll through social media while you wait in your car for your kids? Buy a mass market paperback of a book and keep it in your car to pick up easily while you wait. Get bored while doing chores and find yourself stopping to do something more fun? Download the free Libby app, login with your local library, borrow an audiobook you've been meaning to check out for free, and listen while you wash dishes! (Honestly, for this last one, it feels like my kitchen cleans itself.) You don't need to be doing something all the time, and you don't need to be reading all the time, but I promise you, you do have time to do what you want in life. If what you want is to read more books, then follow the advice above and feel free to check out the book below.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Publication Year: 2014
Minimum Reading Age: 12-14
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.07 stars out of 5
Recommend Way to Read: Mass Market Paperback
Maia is the fourth son of the emperor, exhiled to live out his life as a forgotten member of the royal family because of his half-goblin heritage. Yet, the story opens to Maia receiving the news that will turn his life, and the kingdom, upside down: the Emperor and his three other sons have died in an airship accident, and Maia himself is now Emperor of the Elflands. From the very start, Maia is beset by officials and nobles trying to block his rise to power. He must navigate the ways of court, government, and people if he is to survive as Emperor and bring much-needed change to the Elflands.
"Chavar inflated like a bullfrog, but Maia thought, He cannot strike thee, and he cannot come to like thee less than he already does. Thou hast nothing to fear from his anger. He did not entirely believe himself, but he knew he had best pretend he did."
What I Love Most:
In this political fantasy masterpiece, Maia stands out as a character of unique gentleness, empathy, and strength of character. The story is focused entirely on his mindset and perspective, so the reader is able to see how he struggles with each new situation, yet also how he instinctively acts with kindness and generosity. I think this is a rare trait for a main character in a political/court novel (in stark comparison to Game of Thrones), and it causes you to root for Maia all the more. You don't just want him to survive--you want him to thrive and create a better world. He is the quintissential "good king" who does not want power, but does everything he can to weild it in a way that makes the world better for his subjects. My favorite part of the story is that, along with watching Maia grow into his role as Emperor, you are watching him learn for the first time since his mother's death 10 years before what it feels like to be loved and cared for. This book brought me to tears many times due to the goodness of its main character and the struggle he faces to have a happy, good life.
Why You Should Read It:
Honestly, the reason you should pick up this is book is because there is NO reason why you shouldn't. The story is intelligent, the writing supurb, and the characters vibrant and delightful. While the story feels real and adult, there are no "adult" scenes or issues that would make the book unacceptable for a child audience or for an adult who may be put off by language, sex, or violence. This is definitely an adult book with adult issues and themes, but there is nothing in the book that would be innappropriate or boring for a young reader either. It really is a book for everyone. The only trigger warning I could find on this re-read could be references to physical abuse and a certain element of hopelessness which hints at depression in the middle of the book. I may recommend parents to read the book before recommending it to their children so you can determine if you think the amount is appropriate for the maturity of your child. The biggest obstacle to reading The Goblin Emperor would probably be time and reading level. It is a longer book with a slower beginning. You may consider reading this one as an audiobook, though perhaps at 1.5x regular speed, as when I sampled the audiobook version, I found that the narrator speaks unnecessarily slowly. My recommendation is to enjoy the length of the book, as it is a standalone, and you will be sad when you get to the end, as the world feels so alive that you want to keep living in it.
What Writers Should Take Away:
The worldbuilding in this novel is something else. The story begins in medias res, with the inciting incident (the previous emperor's death) having already occured. Unlike many secondary-world, political fantasies, Addision does not spend any time describing her world in detail at the beginning. Instead, she relies on the reader's likely general knowledge of how things like male succession, power struggles in government, and airships work so that she can dive right into the action of the story. She only mentions or describes things readers will find new in her Elfland world, and for the rest, she respects your intelligence to fill in the details. Addison cleverly sets up her worldbuilding with mostly elements drawn from different places and time periods, and she does not waste words telling you how they work if you are likely to recognize them. Then, she only describes new or unusual parts of her world as they become relevant to the story or a few scenes before they become important. Witnesses, for example, are a combination of our world's police, religious leaders, lawyers, government lobbiests, and envrionmental conservationists. Addison describes important elements of their roles and uses in society as they become relevant to the main character and the story. Since a bulk of the novel's plot follows investigation into the previous emperor's demise, the Witnesses are essential to the story and thus require more information. Writers should read this book to see exactly how little is required to create a world that feels new, fantastical, and real.