Maia is the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor of the Elflands, and he's lived his entire life in exile from the imperial court. He has visited the imperial court just once, when he was eight, for his mother's funeral.
Now, at eighteen, a messenger arrives from court with the shocking news that his hated father and all three unknown brothers have died in an airship crash. He is now Emperor. And while he's been taught court etiquette, he's been taught nothing suitable for governing an empire. Maia is alone at court, with no friends, no allies, and no knowledge of either governing, or the common culture of the court. What he does know is that whoever killed his father and brothers didn't intend him to inherit, and could kill him at any point.
This is, in broad strokes, the starting point for many an action-packed fantasy, and with a few details changed, space operas of political struggle in sprawling star empires. Where The Goblin Emperor differs is that Maia isn't a believer in bloody autocracy as The Only Way. He doesn't set out to hunt down and kill his enemies, although he's no fool and does start an investigation into the airship crash.
Maia wants to govern well. He wants his rule to benefit not just himself and his court, but all the people for whom he is now responsible. While learning the rules of basic survival at court, he's also feeling out those around him to learn the essentials of governing, looking for possible friendships and alliances, and trying to right the wrongs he can identify and see solutions for.
Maia is a reformer. A young, inexperienced, in some ways naive reformer, but if he doesn't always have much confidence in himself, he did learn a strong sense of right and wrong, and the importance of kindness, from his goblin princess mother. Sometimes that kindness leads him into potentially dangerous errors; more often, it surprises those around him, catches them off guard, and shakes their assumptions about the unregarded goblin heir.
One of Maia's great strengths is a willingness to change his mind, and give others the chance to change theirs.
Addison has given us a richly developed world. The empire itself, and its neighbors, including the goblin empire from which Maia's mother came, feels complex and lived-in. The politics of the imperial court feel real, and the individual characters have a depth and complexity. Even in minor characters, the existence of more complexity than we get to see is hinted at.
I really love this book, and would like to read more in this world.
I bought this book.