The goblin emperor and three of his sons die unexpectedly in an airship accident. Maia, the emperor’s youngest son and a recluse shut away from court, suddenly finds that he is the new emperor. Thrust into the murky depths of politics, the new emperor struggles to grow into his new role and to take leadership of an empire reeling from loss and caught in oppressive traditions.
This novel reads like a coming-of-age goblin history, if such a thing could exist. The story pacing is steady and intricate. Maia’s journey from frightened boy to confident leader happens so believably that his triumphs are easy to celebrate. Addison even weaves in some equal rights for women in her story world, which has to be a first in the land of goblins. The story development is strong but subtle. Readers used to the loud plotlines of high-action stories might miss the gentle unfolding of story and the well-organized message waiting to be realized.
One thing that I did find confusing was the fact that lots of characters seemed to have different names depending on who was referring to them. This took some getting used to, and was more confusing for me because I listened to the audiobook. It’s probably a story that would be easier to enjoy the old-fashioned way.
Once I realized there weren’t any human characters, and even any really important characters besides Maia himself, I wasn’t sure I’d like the story. I found Maia to be so likeable that it was ultimately easy to get past those things. It’s really Maia’s journey. There are certainly other interesting characters, but none so critical to the story as the emperor himself.
A few vague references to sex. An actress offers herself to the emperor, but he refuses.
Maia was raised with his mother’s beliefs, which are not the most popular in the empire. The previous emperor did not really practice any faith. There are several rituals overseen by priests and Maia often wishes he could meditate privately. When Maia decides to investigate his father’s and brothers’ deaths, he hires someone who can speak to the dead to hopefully contact other victims and learn what happened. Maia is not present for these rituals but hears an account of the results.
Someone attempts to assassinate the goblin emperor. A guard commits ritual suicide for failing to protect the emperor. Description is brief. References to a child being beaten.
Occasionally Maia has too much wine and says/does things he later regrets.