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Marissa Lingen

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The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison [Mar. 30th, 2014|09:01 am]
Marissa Lingen

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

In the last 3/4 of The Goblin Emperor, I caught myself making excuses to get up and do other things. Sort the laundry, write an email, get another glass of water. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, not because I didn’t want to see how it ended, but because I knew that when it was over, it would be over. And I didn’t want it to be over quite yet. I wasn’t ready to be done yet. The Goblin Emperor is, as its author indicated in Q&A yesterday, a stand-alone. So it’s not just “it’s over, until the next book in the trilogy, which is scheduled for October,” or, “it’s over, until the sequel which is due next year if all goes well.” It’s, well, over.

And, I mean, this is great, because there is the whole story, no waiting. There is no biting your nails through another volume or three or twelve wondering if the whole thing will fall apart (it doesn’t) or turn out to have a point after all (it does). All your cynical horrible friends–you know you have them–we love our cynical horrible friends–can be presented with this volume with full assurances that this is the whole story, no cliffhangers, no to-be-continued, no chance of bloating into a thirty-volume epic. Beginning, middle, end, airship crashes, court politics, astronomy, all right here. Airship crashes! Court politics! Astronomy! These are the things Mrissas like best! Also architectural proposals and people tripping over things they assume other people will know (but do not) (in mutual directions) and more court politics! And layers of etiquette and loyalty and more court politics!

But I want more goblins, she whined ungratefully. And more steppe nomads. And more elves would do, but really: goblins and steppe nomads, this is what I want. Not in this book, I hasten to add. This book had the proper proportion of these things.

This is a fantasy novel, and will get labeled with fantasy court politics and steampunk tags–and rightly so, I think, although some of the things I find most annoying about steampunk are absent–I think the group who might miss out and should hear about it is people who love Cherryh’s atevi books. There is even tea (albeit more pleasantly, in samovars), there are very interesting servant and bodyguard characters, there is attention to logistics, there is intercultural diplomacy, there are pieces where people think they understand just when they do not and things go awry…it’s not the likeliest “if you like this, you should try that,” but it seemed worth mentioning.

One of the things I’ve seen in a few other reviews that also seems worth mentioning: Maia, the main character, is very concerned with treating others well. My father once told me that our parents are patterns for us whether we like it or not, but we get to choose whether they are positive or negative patterns, whether we follow their lead or make sure we don’t do whatever-it-is, large or small scale, as they did. And Maia is a character who is living that, sometimes with his literal parents and sometimes with other figures who have passed in and out of his young life in parental surrogate roles. But the thing I said in the comments section of my Gilman review, about how I can deal with all sorts of darkness if people are kind to each other: Maia is kind. He does his best to be. Even without airship crashes and court politics, that would have been worth a lot to me.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2014-03-30 04:11 pm (UTC)
It sounds like the book is everything I've been hoping it would be from the opening. Looking forward to getting my own copy.
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[User Picture]From: fadethecat
2014-03-30 04:31 pm (UTC)
I paused my first read-through of the atevi books to read my arc of TGE, and...yes. You are right. The tone is very different, but some of those same elements are so there, and I am such a sucker for Learning Cultural Norms and Dealing With Expectations No One Told You About.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-03-30 04:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's doing very different things, it's in no way "an atevi knockoff" or anything unworthy like that. But people who like the atevi books should definitely go give this a look.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2014-03-30 08:56 pm (UTC)
I love that book. I can hardly wait to have the real, finished thing in hand.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2014-03-31 06:15 am (UTC)
I just went to look up what I said about it when I read it early, to see if I still agreed with how I felt then; and I think I do. And I said:

The Goblin Emperor is loosely a Bildungsroman, a book that teaches its protagonist how to live; but in the process it’s a love-gift to half a dozen genres, and it’s warm and wise about each in turn. It’s about youth and friendship, about betrayal and survival, about power and responsibility and strength. Particularly, it’s about power undeserved and how to deserve it after all. Page by page it’s a sheer pleasure to read, but like all good books it’s more than the sum of its pages. There’s truth here, a revealing affection, a deep humanity - no half-elven goblin was ever so human as this - and a story that builds layer on layer to create a structure as intricate as the court it describes. I really want to call it a Buildingsroman to celebrate the pervasive sense of architecture, internal and external to the characters and the story and the world it describes.

Yup. I'd stand by that.
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From: saoba
2014-03-31 06:16 am (UTC)
So impatiently waiting for this one.

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[User Picture]From: genarti
2014-04-01 03:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, this sounds fascinating, and I hadn't heard of it before. Thank you!

The fact that Maia is concerned with treating others well is also very relevant information for me, because I agree with you that I can deal with a great deal of darkness if characters are kind to each other (and not only kind to their One Exception To The Rule), and have very little interest in spending my reading time hanging out with constantly unpleasant people. Thanks!
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