41. THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, BY KATHERINE ADDISON
Recommended to me by Leonardo, on Goodreads, and some "best fantasy books” lists. As I understand it, he hasn’t actually read it, but plans to. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother.
Synopsis: A half goblin, half elf boy, son of the elven emperor, is astonished to discover that, since his father and all his brothers have died in an accident, he’s the heir to the throne. He goes to the palace where he meets lots of people and watches some things happening.
Overall enjoyment: I tried very hard, but just couldn’t like it. Every time I try to come up with a redeeming quality, I almost immediately shoot it down. It was just boring and badly written.
Plot: There isn’t one. It’s a bunch of stuff that happens, one after the other, and almost unconnected. And even those small plots are boring, ridiculously incongruent, obvious, and badly made.
Characters: Again, bleh. The only character with some depth is Maia himself; all the others are two- or one-dimensional profoundly stupid beings. You can tell right away who is good and who is bad depending on if they are warmly welcoming to him or if they look at him with pure hatred. His enemies are so stupid it’s a wonder they manage to get anything done; you can see right through every one of their plots, and I believe my grandmother could have come up with better plans for assassinating the emperor. And she has Alzheimer’s. The good characters are good just because they are. And despite being marginally better written, Maia is also a very badly developed character. He’s very inconsistent, being a political genius and infinitely wise in one chapter and naive boy who probably still believes in Santa and would sign contracts against the presents he would bring. He’s so pusillanimous; nothing in the story happens because of him, he only watches while things happen.
World/setting: I was hoping this could be a redeeming quality, but, sadly, it’s not. It’s simply a badly constructed world. She did put some work into it, but all in the wrong places. You have no idea how the society works, she completely ignores the day to day life of people, but she gives excruciatingly detailed descriptions of formalities and rituals among the nobles. And they’re not even useful formalities, they are not metaphors of how the society works, or significant to the plot, characters or ideas; they’re just whimsical empty gestures designed to give the impression of a culture. She invents terms and titles and just dumps them on the reader’s lap without any explanation. Plus, her choices of what to describe really leave something to be desired; she keeps building up expectations, saying how wonderful, amazing, extraordinary and impressive things are and then, when the character finally sees this thing, they will assure the reader that it really is and not describe it at all (in the meantime, the reader will know every meal and every piece of clothing in the area around in detail). This world was supposed to have steampunk elements, and indeed there is mention of a few steam-powered engines and such, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the story and could have been removed without loss (the book probably would have been better, because it would be shorter). It feels like she only included them as an afterthought, so her book would be considered steampunk.
Writing style: I don’t it. Very obscure, almost like she’s purposefully trying to make her text more difficult to read. The pronouns seem like an unnecessary affectation (much like almost everything in this book). She will travel wildly in time and space in the same chapter (sometimes even the same paragraph), without any warning.
Representation: There was an attempt, with the goblins being dark skinned and suffering some prejudice from it and a few homosexual relationships, it’s very badly worked (or not at all). Just like with the steampunk, it feels like she only included them so that it would be there.
Political correctness: This book is a goddamn train wreck. All the characters are stereotypes. She’s very bad on her treatment of women: there are very few, and those are very stupid or absolutely motherly. But then, the male characters are very badly written too, so that’s probably not sexism.
Up next: The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls