THE GOBLIN EMPEROR: A massively contradictory review

Igoblinemperor have no idea how to write this review, guys.  I finished The Goblin Emperor in maybe four or five big gulps before bed.  On at least two or three of those nights it kept me up much later than I wanted to be awake.  I loved every word of it, and it’s on my shortlist for my 2015 best books list.

And if I say a single other word about it, it’s going to sound like I hated the thing.

In fact, skip to the last two paragraphs and don’t bother reading any of the stuff in between.

Because this book?  Has flaws.  But it somehow gets away with them.  It has elves and goblins that have no reason to be elves and goblins– they’re humans in all but name– and in fact appear at times to be poor analogues of black people and white people.  The titular emperor is a half-goblin.  There’s lots of talk about skin color, and how perfectly white elves are, and how full-blood goblins tend to be black, and by black, I mean obsidian black, not brown.  The names are straight out of Tolkien parodies– not Tolkien, Tolkien parodies– and tend to be fifty letters long and have a bunch of unnecessary apostrophes in them– there is a room in the castle, which by the way is called the Untheilenenise Court, or something like that, because I refuse to double-check the spelling and that word has at least four more e’s than it needs, called the– wait for it– Mazan’theileian.

There’s a glossary.  Because of course there is.  Here’s the entry for the Mazan’theileian:

Mazan’theileian: the hall of the Athmaz’are in the Untheilenenise Court.


Right, that hall.

Here is the quote on the back of the book:

Ambitious and meticulously executed world-building brings an animated dazzle to this exceptional assemblage of character studies and complex encounters, while the expressive evocation of its youthful protagonist’s shyness and insecurity adds an affecting authenticity to the steampunk-infused fantasy setting.”

If that quote does not make you want to punch the author of the blurb, many times, for the crime of masturbating where you can see it, you and I probably cannot be friends.

Also, nothing really happens.  Spoilers!  The main character solves a crime.  He chooses a wife, but never actually gets around to marrying her.  Some people try to do mean things to him, but don’t worry!  They will fail.  And that’s about it.  The book is supposedly about how the young, ignorant and naive Goblin Emperor grows into his job, or something, but he’s actually pretty startlingly good at it from the jump, and never really makes any terrible mistakes.  There is a startling amount of the book dedicated to choice of personal pronouns.  And the dialogue tends to be full of thees and thous and oh so goddamn much use of the Imperial We.

Sounds awful, right?

Shut up and read it.

Ignore me.  Ignore all of these things, and if you start reading the book and they get on your nerves, keep reading, because somehow this book, which by rights ought to be unreadable crap, is fantastic, and I promise it will grow on you and then suddenly the book will be over and you will be sad about it.

I just cannot explain why.

8 thoughts on “THE GOBLIN EMPEROR: A massively contradictory review

  1. Blink What exactly is that previous comment about?

    Ah, well, anyway, thanks for the review. I may pick it up, now, though you pointing out the book violates all sorts of happy writing rules (Do Not Violate The Rules Ever) and still succeeds, happily.

    This makes me wonder: If a book with flaws inbuilt is so good, how much better would it be if those flaws were removed? Would it change the nature of the book itself? Its intrinsic value as a piece of writing?


  2. ACK! That sentence should say ” I may pick it up, now, though you pointing out the book violates all sorts of happy writing rules (Do Not Violate The Rules Ever) and still succeeds, happily, is disconcerting.”

    There is NO EDIT BUTTON FOR COMMENTS! Once they’re published, you cannot change your words. So sad.


  3. I’m quite intrigued, really. And am curious whether the book’s working reflects an author who got extremely lucky or one who was extremely skilled and chose to make a book that would look hopelessly flawed but actually succeed.


  4. I thought the exact same thing, take Goblin out of the title and this book receives no accolades. Just a cheap ploy to classify this as a fantasy novel. I got half way through it and had to stop, It was like reading a book on medieval court etiquette.


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