Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week’s theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!
This week’s theme is ‘Reasons Why I Love [insert your favourite book title, genre, author, etc. here]’ and, funnily enough, a post all about my love for The Goblin Emperor is something I’ve had on my mind for a while!
I’ve always been a book-lover. In fact I’ve always been a lover of stories, whether I discovered them through books, films, theatre or around bonfires, so for many years I found that age-old question of ‘What’s your favourite book?’ far too difficult to answer.
I had many favourites growing up and I have many favourites now, but I am also the kind of reader who actually has an answer to that dreaded question.
In 2015 – one of the best years in my reading life so far in which I discovered several new favourites – I read Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor for the first time.
Since then I have re-read it in full a further four times. I’ve revisited it both through my physical editions and through the audiobook, and I adore them both.
So today I thought I’d share my love for my all-time favourite novel with you, and gush about why I love it so much!
I love it because… of Maia
Oh Maia, my sweet summer child. Maia is the ultimate antithesis to all of the tortured assassins, wizards and James Bonds of the fantasy world. He’s a boy, growing into a young man, who suddenly finds himself the emperor at just 18-years-old.
He’s kind and fair and people smart, and while he still has a lot to learn and a lot frightens him, he never lets himself be cowed into ruling his empire in a way he doesn’t want to rule it. He’s a gem of a character, and I want to cuddle him.
I love it because… of the side characters
Maia is the main focus of this novel, but there’s a wealth of wonderful side characters from Maia’s bodyguards to his personal secretary to his sword-wielding fiancee, not to mention all of the characters that aren’t on his side. I love these characters dearly and they all feel so real to me and I love how, like me, his allies want nothing more than to protect this unbelievably nice young man.
I love it because… it focuses on friendship and found families
Speaking of the side characters, it’s Maia’s relationships with them that, for me, are at the heart of this novel. Other than his beloved mother, who’s no longer with him, Maia has no friends in the world when the story begins, and soon he finds himself having to learn who is showing him kindness because he’s the emperor and who’s showing him kindness because he’s Maia.
When so many fantasy novels out there focus on bloodshed or romance, it’s so refreshing to read a book set at court which has intrigue, sure, but is mostly about finding your people, finding your self-worth and finding your place in the world.
I love it because… it’s a domestic fantasy novel
Pretty much all of The Goblin Emperor takes place within the walls of Maia’s court, but it’s never claustrophobic and, most importantly, it’s never boring. If you’re the kind of reader who loves fast-paced stories with plenty of action then this book might not be for you, but I urge you to give it a try. As someone who enjoys slower stories, and someone who loves stories set in homes whether they’re castles or cottages, this is the perfect read for me.
I love it because… it’s an example of Hopepunk
The Goblin Emperor is quiet and, to me, comforting, but the word I use to describe it most often is ‘hopeful’. I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again, but if you’re sick and tired of grimdark fantasy, this novel is the cure you’ve been looking for. It’s a warm hug in the form of a high fantasy novel.
I love it because… it proves a book doesn’t have to be depressing to be good
Often I think a book’s worth is measured by how depressing it is. Every year I look at the books that have been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and every year I find the longlist boring as hell. Now, in fairness to the Man Booker, a lot of that is because literary fiction isn’t something I gravitate towards, but so many novels that are nominated for that award are novels about marriages breaking down or sexual assault or child abuse and, frankly, I’m bored of it.
Some grimdark fantasy can feel the same way, but The Goblin Emperor is proof that a book can still be excellent without being gratuitously sad. Is it all sunshine and rainbows? Certainly not, but the sections of the book that are sad or touch on darker themes are done so tastefully that it won’t leave you feeling like you need therapy after you finish it.
I love it because… it’s an example of how to do the ‘dead mother’ trope well
Let’s face it: fiction, fantasy or otherwise, is awash with men who had beloved mothers and horrible fathers, and these men often lose their mothers when they’re still young. The same thing happens to Maia, and yet Maia doesn’t use Chenelo’s death to give him something to be tragic over. He gets (rightfully) angry about the way she was treated, and we know how much he misses her and still craves her guidance, but he remembers all the kindnesses she taught him and never uses the way she was treated as an excuse to be cruel to those around him. Chenelo would be proud.
I love it because… it speaks to my love of the Tudor era
As you all know I’m a big history nerd and the Tudor era, in particular, is the era of history that fascinates me most. Whether this was a conscious decision on Addison’s part or not I don’t know, but I can’t help getting Henry VIII vibes from Maia’s father considering his own track record of wives who’ve either died or been set aside for someone else. It’s such a little thing, but it makes me love this book even more.
I love it because… the audiobook was a comfort when I was ill
I’ve had quinsy a couple of times in the past and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy; I honestly think breaking my leg hurt less. Both times I was ill all I was able to do was lie in bed, doped up on antibiotics and painkillers while trying not to swallow because it hurt so much I wanted to cry, and the audiobook of The Goblin Emperor is what I turned to. I curled up, listened to Kyle McCarley’s narration and let myself be swept away to Maia’s court for a few hours.
I love it because… of the beautiful covers!
And to end on a rather shallow note, I just love the covers of these books. I love the illustration on the original cover, but I also think the cover of the recently released UK edition is very pretty. In fact I love this book so much that I own five different versions of it: the original hardback, the mass market paperback, the audio CD, the kindle edition and the UK paperback. I’m not sorry.