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The Goblin Emperor

Written by: Katherine Addison
Narrated by: Kyle McCarley
Length: 16 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (54 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2014 Katherine Addison (P)2014 Tantor

What the critics say

"A spellbinding and genuinely affecting drama. Unreservedly recommended." ( Kirkus Starred Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enchanting!!

An enchanting fantasy about political intrigue in the royal court of an elfin/goblin emperor. Versatile narration by Kyle McCarley, giving all the characters their own personality.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it!

I enjoyed this so much that I listened to the entire thing twice. Fun and entertaining, a perfect family-friendly audiobook to listen to on a long road trip. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the characters were not perfect, not beautiful, and often self doubting, but more realistic and loveable as a result.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

This is fantasy genre?

A DNF for me. I’m going to return it to Audible. After I dozed off for two hours with this audiobook droning in my ear and later realized that I had missed absolutely nothing of import, I started wondering what the point of me listening to this book is. I can sleep fine for free. Halfway through now and I think I’d rather spend the next 8 hours listening to something else.
It’s quite well written and the main character is reasonably sympathetic. A story of a somewhat insecure yet very capable 18 year old who suddenly becomes emperor of the elf kingdom after his father and older brothers all die in an accident. After that he proceeds to learn the workings of the palace bureaucracy, deals with servants, food, clothing, performs minor functions, eats dinners, makes various mundane decisions re matters of state and household duties... yawn...zzzzz... Maybe it’s just a matter of personal taste but I’m not sure why I would want to hear about it? Or maybe something starts to happen in the second half of the book? It’s too late for me now. I want to be entertained.

If you take an account of daily events in the life of an emperor, and say that he’s ‘half goblin’, and the rest of the people are ‘elves’, and make the occasional reference to the fact that the people in the story occasionally move their ears to express emotion rather like dogs, (his ears dropped, her ears shot up, etc) does this mean it’s a ‘fantasy novel’? Maybe something fantastical happens later, or happened while I dozed off, but as far as I could see, this is just a straight up account of some humans going about some very boring activities.

One last complaint- the emperor is addressed by the title of ‘Serenity’, and that word is also used as an acknowledgement in place of ‘yes’ when talking to him. This happens near constantly in every conversation. So the book seems to go like this ‘ blah blah blah ‘Serenity’ blah blah ‘Serenity’ blah ‘Serenity’. I’m not sure if the author actually intended it to read like this and if this is meant to have some sort of peaceful calming mantra effect on the reader, hearing the word ‘Serenity’ every minute or two, but I found it a little tiresome.

Nevertheless- after saying all this, I do think the author has talent and I would probably read something by her again. Would like to see her write something with more of a plot.

The narrator was good.

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Lovely

This was the best and most original fantasy I have read in a long time. It was so realistic and yet still so fantastic. I was really hoping for a sequel... there isn’t one. :( #Audible1

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well audible I did enjoy this book

it was great no spoils and it was hard to put down. I can't wait for next book to come, I think I'd make a good series one more book maybe two maybe

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story, well crafted, but excessive use of interminable names obnoxious.

Good book for Renaissance and fantasy readers. The story is great if you can find it among the confusing and endless hierarchical names.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Heavy political scheming and court intrigue

In a world where goblins and elves make up the world and even intermarry, this is a court-intrigue fantasy and a murder mystery in which the outcast half-goblin fourth son of the Emperor suddenly finds himself heir to the empire after an airship accident. Rushed from an isolated backwater to the middle of court intrigue and assassination plots, Maia has to figure out how to gain allies, govern an empire, investigate his father's highly suspicious death, and deal with more than a few elf noble families who are very less than happy to see a half goblin now on the throne.

If you like political scheming and court intrigue then you'll probably like this. If you like grim fantasy and war and battles then probably not; none of these here. Maia is a surprisingly optimistic 18 year old emperor and almost unbelievably so; the plot read a little bit like a fairy tale where the youngest prince or princess who stops to be kind to the beggar woman or the commoners is rewarded in the end for simply being a good person. It was fine up to a point but I think got a little heavy handed by the end, OR, the author should have made a specific point of Maia making this a deliberate choice, rather than just wandering through being generally A Good Person without much reason why he'd choose to be that way.

The language was both beautiful and frustrating. Beautiful, because the author has paid a lot of attention to creating rules of speech between the formal and informal (we are pleased vs I am pleased) as well as the use of archaic English forms (thee, thou, etc) to create layers of formality and meaning. And listening (because I got this on audiobook) to an author who can actually use the archaic forms correctly rather than butchering them was a real pleasure. It's not often I read anyone using the archaic "an" (meaning "if") correctly. It was also frustrating however as the author got a little too carried away with invented names and titles until during some of the grand events it was a word soup and incredibly difficult to remember who and what was which as the polysyllabic names and titles flew freely. A little flavour is good; this was way too much. I gather the printed book had an appendix which would have helped but that was not an option in the audiobook and I won't even try to spell any of the other characters names or titles or any of the places or building names.

Overall it was a fairly gentle-paced book, following Maia who didn't really go anywhere, and who spent the whole time just dealing with plotting and politics and the murder mystery. If that's your thing, it was well-written and a beautiful world, and I'd read a sequel if there is one. But if that's not your thing you'll probably find it very slow.

Afterthought addition: there's obviously a lot of anti-goblin racism in this book, and there are constant references throughout to the darkness of goblin skin compared to the whiteness of elf skin. The emperor's formal dress colour appeared to be white as well. With all the frequent references to skin tone and anti-goblin prejudice it was a bit odd that this never actually seemed to go anywhere or to develop into an actual clear message about racism. On the other hand, women's rights did seem to get a more clear defense, and there were also some positively described gay and lesbian characters although this world did seem to have some degree of prejudice against homosexuality, though it seemed pretty mild.

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Great story if you like fantasy and politics

The story is a little slow with any fantasy story as characters and places are introduced. Characters and story are interesting however the story requires your full attention. It is very easy to confuse characters because names and titles are similar.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Boring

Well written and narrated story about an annoyingly weak goblin emperor. The story is so boring I kept zoning out. And the self depreciating emperor made me cringe.

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  • EddyC
  • 2015-07-19

Awesome!

I was delight to come across the audio for this book. I had read the book when it first became available and thought what a amazing storyline. It grabbed my attention and imagination from the very first page and did not disappoint. 5 Stars for the narrator, he did a superb job in his interpretations of all the characters, specially of the Goblin King, he set the perfect tone and pace. It was hard to walk away, if I could have listened to the whole story in one sitting I would have.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hannah
  • 2015-07-26

Amazing story!!!

What a wonderful book! It got me through a very tough week as all I could think about was when I could listen to the next bit of it. the narration was excellent as well.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Bronwyn Soell
  • 2015-04-16

read the book first- a pleasure to listen to

A detailed coming of age story filled with complex court etiquette, politics, intrigue and a little action. If you are looking for a basic swords 'n sorcery fantasy this is not the book for you. But the author is so inventive- her elvish/goblin kingdom is full of dirigible airships, pneumatic tubes, burgeoning women's rights and the industrial revolution, among other things. It takes the basic tropes of elves and goblins and puts them into a completely new and believable setting. On top of it, her complex court rituals and the 'window dressing' of her worldbuilding is detailed and fascinating. It makes me eager to see what she writes next. The main character, Maya, who becomes emperor totally unexpectedly, is insecure and immature and has to quickly grow up and get wise to how things work. I found this process both touching and realistic. I am very impressed with the narrator, whose voices were distinctive but mostly because (having read the book) I enjoyed hearing the many complicated names of people, places and things pronounced correctly! I do think some of the names could be confusing if you have not read the book first, but either way, I think this is well worth the credit.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Christina
  • 2014-06-13

Absolutely Wonderful

Maia is the disregarded half-goblin son of the Elvin emperor. The emperor and his three eldest sons die in an accident, leaving the unprepared Maia to assume the throne. He faces many challenges in court-whom to trust, the resentment of his father and brother's widows, learning court politics, choosing a bride, and making the right choices for himself and his empire. This is a wonderful story filled with intrigue and politics with a hint of romance. The protagonist Maia is very well developed and he makes mistakes without appearing stupid. The supporting characters are three dimensional and have interesting personalities and back stories. Kyle McCarley makes each person come alive with his or her own voice. Even without the explanatory text, the listener knows who is speaking based upon McCarley's narration alone. Though the synopsis places this book in the young adult category, the writing, character development, and story are very mature and adult. Maia is young and naïve and new to court but he faces his situation with remarkable courage and self awareness.

The setting is highly developed and the dialogue realistic and engaging. Addison's world contains some magic, some of which is spiritual. The goblins aren't the typical short treasure-hoarding little monsters usually found in fantasy. They are more civilized and have their own culture. Though the goblins and elves are separate species, Addison depicts them more as different ethnicities. I can't compliment this book enough. I've been recommending it to everyone I know who has even the slightest interest in fantasy. My only complaint is that The Goblin Emperor is a stand-alone title. At this time, Addison doesn't plan to write a sequel. The story ends very neatly; however, I am disappointed no further adventures are forthcoming.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave
  • 2015-10-11

Don't Be Intimidated by the Names!

In most of the reviews I've read about Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, folks wind up complaining about how difficult the names are. Amusingly, even the plot summary on Audible refuses to provide names. The truth is I would be hard-pressed to remember the names of the characters from this book, but I definitely remember the characters themselves, and their actions. And for me, that makes these characters and this book pretty memorable.

The Goblin Emperor is almost a throwback to classic fantasy, filled with court politics and conspiracies, adventure, alliances, friendship, and striving to make things better. It's one of the most warm and fun fantasies I've read in recent years. The current emperor and his heir dies in what appears to be an accident, and his only surviving successor is his bastard goblin, living in exile. That may sound a touch dark, but the story is practically the antithesis of grimdark -- a friend of mine joked that the nicest characters in A Game of Thrones did more horrible things that the most villainous characters in this book. That might be true, but it doesn't make the events of this book any less exciting or enjoyable. I love that at it's heart, it's an optimistic story about trying to make the world we live in a better one. About progress and change.

I'd never heard Kyle McCarley read before this book, but he was masterful here. He made those names roll off his tongues, and he made the characters feel like friends who will stay with you long after the story has ended.

The Goblin Emperor is that rare standalone epic fantasy novel -- full of sunshine, friendship, and optimism without ever feeling sappy or unrealistic. You'll never want to leave Maia's court.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Skipper
  • 2014-08-16

Not bad, but not what I expected

3.5 stars for this predominantly heartwarming coming-of-age-in-politics piece, but fantastic 5-star narration by Kyle McCarley. Well-modulated British accent fit the characters nicely.

The story itself was not what I expected. I thought this would be a politically-focused fantasy, with magic and mystery abounding. Well, there was a wee pinch of magic, occurring only once or twice in the entire story. There was a mystery, but it stayed in the background for the most part.

This book could be any realistic narrative about day-to-day events as a young, untrained, unwanted boy (named Maia -- pronounced Maya -- age 18) takes over his suddenly dead father's throne as emperor of the elves. The light-skinned, white-haired elves. But Maia is only half-eleven, since his mother was a goblin. His skin and hair is dark. This brings to mind racial tensions, but honestly, the author didn't expound much on the potential for bias.

Instead, Addison chronicles the day to day transformation of Maia, from a frightened, under-confident, ignorant, and yet kind-hearted young emperor to a wise, compassionate, confident, beloved, and grace-fueled leader. The entire book chronicles the first season of his reign, from winter's first snowfall to the heavy spring rains.

Maia was ignored by his cruel father (the elven emperor) from birth. The emperor rejected Maia and his beloved goblin mother. At age 8, when his mother died, he was sent to live far away in the marshlands with only an abusive drunk and some servants. He received no proper education.

When he arrived at court to rule at age 18, he was regarded with suspicion and disdain. However, he consistently strove to repudiate his ego and repress his need for vengeance against those who ridiculed him, abused him, attempted to kill him. Instead, he focused on fulfilling his duty to the people. This included building bridges -- of one sort and another.

Quibbles: It grew a bit boring at times. The characters were difficult to remember. Too many similar sounding foreign names and words to keep track of, and the audio has no glossary, unlike the book. Also, I saw no reason for his abusive cousin Setheris to reasonably expect anything from him. I didn't like his constant need to apologize or beg pardon for no good reason. It grew tiresome and didn't befit an emperor -- as he was advised by his capable secretary, Scevat. (Plus, I don't like being around people who apologize continually. Makes me feel irritable.)

Maia was almost too good-kind. Not quite credible, nor fully likable. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of grimdark fantasy, but this went too far the other way. I liked Maia best when he showed his "human" side -- expressed interest in beautiful girls, delighted wonder at the model bridge the clockmaker built, grew irritated with having to wear so much jewelry, missed his mama, and told Severis off.

Probably won't read a sequel, if one is written, but maybe. Despite my quibbles, I found it oddly compelling. Would probably like it better after a second listen. Quite decent writing, easy to follow (except for the exhaustive and highly confusing invented language).

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • DonnaRussell
  • 2014-08-20

Good Fantasy

Would you listen to The Goblin Emperor again? Why?

I probably wouldn't but if there is a sequel I would definitely listen to that.

Any additional comments?

This was a sweet book. I found the main character's interactions and his love for his dead mother quite touching. I like that he succeeded on his own terms and resisted being forced into a mold.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2014-07-02

Excellent story and great narration!

Maya is the half-goblin son of the Emperor. He was exiled since birth but has now been recalled because he must become the new Emperor after the death of his father and brothers. I loved this political fantasy when I read it, and worried about the narration because of all the difficult Elvish and Goblin terms. The narrator does a FANTASTIC job of making the words sound totally natural, and also provides great voices for the characters. (His female voices are weaker but in this book, most of the speaking characters are males.)

Highly recommended!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nuclear Sandbox
  • 2015-11-13

Wonderful Performance

Story was exquisite and detailed. Plot was engaging and believable. Narration was superb. Office politics will never seem to be the same for any reader after this.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JoyfulJ
  • 2015-07-22

finally, the story of the unlikely kings reign

Love it.
engaging, attention grabbing and keeping.
I am tired of the journey to the throne, it's a breath of fresh air to hear the story after the throne is given to the unlikely and unprepared king.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful