Wednesday, September 3, 2014

DNF Explanation: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Read: 170 of 446
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Released: April 1, 2014

I'm not sure if this is a case of "wrong book, wrong time" or if it's a case of "wrong book, wrong reader," but either way I didn't DNF this book because it's a bad book. It's actually a really good book and I very much recommend it if you're looking for the type of fantasy where you can really geek out over language and slow burn political intrigue.

Which kinda sounds like my thing, right? Well, the political intrigue at least. And, yes, I did like it, but it was a little too slow and a little less burn than I'd like. Also, the language really messed me up.

The language really needs to go into the category of world building, and Katherine Addison totally immersed herself in building the Goblin Emperor world. It's palpable and real and the type of world building where you know you're only scratching the surface of this world.

It's also the kind of world building that throws you in and you'd better learn to swim fast because Katerine Addison doesn't help you out at all. In a way this was a pretty neat way to help me identify with the main character because he is also thrown into this court with very little preparation.

Maia and I spent almost every one of the 170 pages I read totally lost and confused. Everything was a flood of bizarre names (with reversed gender indicators) and strict court protocol and covert messages and I think I managed to process about half of them.

It was nice to have Maia right there with me in not knowing who half these people were or what the heck was going on, but it would have been a lot nicer to actually understand what I was reading without so much work.

It wouldn't have been half bad if the characters had more personality and distinguishing features, but as it was I couldn't keep track of them and instead ended up grouping most of the side characters into "types" and blending them all together into one person. Which kinda made it hard to follow the political intrigues.

I don't know if things were happening and I was just missing them, but the plot felt very episodic without ever actually progressing. Maia would meet someone, they'd have a little interaction, rinse and repeat.

I was hoping to have some tense mystery to follow as we tried to track down who murdered the royal family and if they were going to go after Maia next, but that seemed to be a very peripheral, barely addressed side plot.

Mostly I was just stuck inside Maia's head as he chastised himself for blundering in social situations, lamented his inexperience, reflected on his feelings of isolation and anxiety over the whole situation, and appreciated his (very nice) valet.

It was really wonderfully done and definitely felt a strong connection to Maia, but it was also very uncomfortable to read. I'm an anxious person and I often feel like I'm blundering in social situations, so while I totally felt a kindred spirit in Maia, I also felt SO uncomfortable being so smothered by these feelings. I read to get away from these feelings, not further immerse myself in them.

Bottom line

Nicely done, but probably not the right book for me. At least not right now.



  1. After reading lots of reviews I'm feeling hesitant about this one, but I still think I'll pick it up if it ever arrives at my library. Thanks for sharing your experience; I know what you mean about not wanting to share certain uncomfortable experiences with a narrator. (I'd much rather read about people who are better than I am at things!)

    1. I think it's definitely worth a library try. I'd be very curious to see what you think of it. It's a book with a lot of merit.

      I agree with you! I like reading about people who are better than I am at things!

  2. Oh, I'm with you about not really liking to read about characters who are as socially anxious as myself (despite feeling a strong connection to them). Definitely makes me uncomfortable. Other than that, it would be hard for me to say whether I would like this one or not unless I tried it out for myself!

    1. Yes, exactly, it made for a very uncomfortable reading experience. I think you should try it out though. You do like good world building.

  3. Huh, I've read some pretty positive reviews for this one and thought it would totally be something you'd love too, Small, so it's interesting to have read your thoughts on why you actually DNF'ed this. I'd like to give this one a try in the future and see if I respond differently.

    1. I was so hoping I would love it, especially after seeing Sherwood Smith's glowing review. It does seem right up my alley. I'd be very interested in hearing what you think of it.

  4. Hmm, if you're confused, that's spells double confusion for me. I usually have you explain the complex world building and politics. I'll look at some other reviews to make my final decision. You've done a good job scaring me off, though.


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