The Goblin Emperor won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy novel. It is a novel that I will definitely go back and listen to the audio narration of since there are a lot of names and places that do not roll of the tongue. The writing is really beautiful, and I enjoyed the court setting with a touch of steampunk thrown in the story.
Maia is the fourth son of the King of the Elflands, born to a Goblin mother and banished from court with his mother when he was very young. After his father and three older half-brothers are killed in an airship accident, he assumes the throne. He must adapt quickly to the ruthless world of the Imperial Court or die. He shows a kindness to others that is frowned upon in court and clearly marks him as an outsider. There are several plots to remove him from the throne, marriages to arrange, and a Kingdom to rule. Maia learns that the airship his father was on had a bomb, and he has to discover who killed his family as well.
The one thing that struck me most about this book was Maia’s inherent kindness. Even with his isolation, his loneliness, the abuse that he suffers after his mother’s death, he remains a kind and gentle soul. This kindness (but not stupidity) he wields like a weapon to win over allies and eventually friends in court. While the book does feel like a standalone novel (how refreshing!) I would love to read another book set in the same world but maybe exploring more of the Goblin lands or telling stories of future rulers in the Elflands. I did find myself stumbling over some of the names and places with many consonants but I plowed through the book anyway. If you read a lot of epic fantasy, it is a nice change of pace from the grim and dark worlds of a lot of those novels. The happiness that Maia finds as he refines the role of Emperor to fit his own needs and style is a pleasure to read.