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The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison {3 Stars}

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison weaves an impressively intricate tale of court politics in a steampunk-fantasy world that is completely unique. Maia is an incredibly sympathetic MC who never imagined being thrust onto the throne and really just wants to do the right thing even if that means the rest of the court laughs behind his back. The Goblin Emperor tells the story of how Maia adjusts to this incredible twist of fate and just how tricky a sudden change in power can be. It is, however, one of those books that definitely requires the glossary provided and probably could have used an extended encyclopedia along with it.

Note: I received The Goblin Emperor from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison {3 Stars}

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Published by Tor Books on April 1st, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk
Page Length: 448 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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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.

3 Stars


  • I love the combination of steampunk elements (airships and steam-powered bridges) and fantasy that The Goblin Emperor weaves together. The two main races in the world are goblins and elves, though they can interbreed, creating a fresh setting free of stinky humans ;-).
  • Maia is such a charming MC that you can’t help but cheer for him. He is rather adorably naive at times but also quite quick and determined to do a good job. His lack of self confidence at times really just endears him to the reader even more.
  • There are so many secondary characters to love in The Goblin Emperor! In particular three small children won my heart by the end, but I also loved Maia’s various support staff and certain family members. Despite the incredible number of characters I met in the Goblin Emperor, a handful left a very meaningful impression that warms my heart.
  • While The Goblin Emperor is definitely not a fast book, the plot was interesting throughout and never actually dragged. There was always something that Maia was trying to figure out or deal with, and just as one issue gets wrapped up, another crops up. The timing of the plot was really quite impressive now that I look back on it!


  •  The Goblin Emperor is incredibly confusing at the start and doesn’t really get all that much easier as you go along. I read it in only a few days, but still struggled to remember all the different characters at court. There is a glossary, but for some reason the particular things I wanted to look up weren’t covered or weren’t detailed enough to be helpful. The amount of similar names contributed to this. If you like fantasy that has this intricate nature, go for it, but it isn’t something I seek out.
  • There was some fairly troubling ableist language in The Goblin Emperor that crept up a number of times without being necessary at all.
  • One of the more frustrating things for me as a reader is when tales of an amazing world are told by secondary characters, but I can’t go explore them with the main character. The Goblin Emperor takes place nearly completely at court, so I didn’t get to see all these interesting places that are hinted at. I need a spinoff series!
  • The writing of The Goblin Emperor is quite thick. I consider myself to have a decent vocabulary, but there were a number of words that I didn’t know. The Goblin Emperor also has accurate historical speech with the “Royal We” and a bunch of thou’s and thee’s all over. This makes for cool immersion but really slow going if you aren’t used to reading that language (which I’m definitely not).


The Goblin Emperor is the perfect book for a particular kind of reader. If you love court intrigue and fresh fantasy worlds, this is your book. If you are looking for something fast and light, it definitely isn’t. I’m looking forward to more stories in this world that have more of an adventure slant to them, since the world of The Goblin Emperor sounds so amazing.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Excellent review Anya! I have a problem with all the names in the book too – always have to turn back and forth multiple times to find who’s who…
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  2. I just finished this one and I really liked it. I thought the restricted setting gelled quite nicely with Maia’s new & narrow world (although yes, I bet the rest of the world would have been interesting to explore too!).

    I completely missed the ableist anguage in this one though and I usually pick up on that stuff. Can you recall some examples? I feel bad that I didn’t notice it myself!
    Miriam recently posted…Book Review: Divergent by Veronica RothMy Profile

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed it :D

      Maia uses the word lame several times and it felt both jarring to me since it is common slang and is considered an ableist slur :-/ I’ve seen a number of blog posts about that one in particular recently so it has been on my mind and I think that’s why it stuck out so much.

  3. I should really read more steampunk! It’s always such a cool addition to a story :)

  4. So glad to hear there is so much great secondary characters love. (I didn’t read the weaknesses…didn’t want to get biased since this is in my queue for like super soon)
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  5. Needs an extended encyclopedia? Stuck in court? Yep, consider me scared off. Thanks for the awesome review! :)
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  6. I’ve seen mixed reviews on this one but I’m certainly intrigued! I love the cover art too. Great review!

    Katrina @ Chased By My Imagination

  7. I appreciate how clear and upfront you are about both what works and what doesn’t work for you in this novel. Some of the things that didn’t work for you probably won’t bother me; for instance, I’m pretty comfortable with Shakespeare and I grew up around a few people who actually still used “thee”, so the language shouldn’t be a problem for me. I am looking forward to reading the book, though when I’ll finally get to it is anyone’s guess — my TBR pile is miles high!
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    • Thank you! I definitely knew when writing this review that the things that lessened my reading experience wouldn’t be the same for everyone, so I’m really glad that that came across and I think you’d definitely like this one in that case :D

  8. I loved your review b/c you told me exactly what you loved and didn’t love about the book but I still totally want to read this story!! It sounds so cool. I get a kick out of books with glossaries – I love complicated worlds like that! I’ve been away from high fantasies like that :)

    • Awesome, that’s exactly the sort of thing I want to happen :D Just because I wasn’t in the mood for a complicated world and court intrigue, doesn’t mean you won’t love it! I think that it is definitely time for you to return to the fold of high fantasy ;-)

  9. I enjoyed this book, though if there’s ever such an issue as too much world building, this book had a bit of that. Lots of incredible, immersive details…but I thought it would have been even better if there was more to anchor me. I’m so glad I was advised to check out the back of the book for a glossary first, I think I would have been lost if I hadn’t seen it first. Gorgeous little book though, I had a nice quiet afternoon with it.
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel BachMy Profile

    • Yup, I definitely needed an anchor. I think this is one of those books where I can see the technical skill and am impressed by it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean my reading experience matched that. And I didn’t know there was a glossary when I started D:

  10. This book is already on my wishlist. It’s too bad it was slow reading, with similar names and glossary required. I tend to have issues with those two things, mostly I mix up names easily and can never be bothered to look stuff up. Makes me wonder if I’d enjoy this, even though the story itself sounds delightful.
    Sarah recently posted…April 2014 in reviewMy Profile

  11. This is one of the few reviews I’ve seen that isn’t praising this book to the high hills. That actually makes me want to read it more; though I trust the names and people behind a lot of the other reviews I’ve seen, it’s always nice to see a different perspective and to find out why it didn’t work for some people.

    Though even just judging from your review, I think it’s going to be one I still enjoy quite a bit, when I finally get around to reading it.

    • This is definitely one where I’m a bit of a black sheep I know ;-). I’ve just never been a fan of the more intrigue-based plot lines and want to out exploring the cool worlds ya know? But that’s completely personal taste, and why I make sure to explain things so that you can decide for yourself ;-)

  12. Blasphemy. This book was awesome all the way around =)

    But I guess three stars means you still liked it, so you are forgiven.

    Put this one down to personal taste, but I enjoyed almost everything you put as a weakness. Especially the story being focused within the court and only hinting at what is outside.
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    • Haha, yes, see, there is text under the dragon to emphasize that and everything! But yes, that’s totally fine that we like different things in our fantasy ;-) I feel kind of bad that I’m not a fan of court intrigue but I just can never get into it :(

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