So the fantasy world has been abuzz about this book for the past few months and I was lucky enough to win a copy - a hardcover copy, no less - from My Bookish Ways. Katherine Addison is the pen name of an author I had previously read and enjoyed by the name of Sarah Monette, so I was sufficiently intrigued and at the same time reassured.
I haven't seen The Goblin Emperor referred to as YA book, but YA it is. I don't usually read YA, finding them a little to 'easy' and 'black & white' in their problem solving and outcomes and I did indeed get that feel here. It is definitely a good read though, despite my possible bias or antipathy towards YA in general.
I had one HUGE problem though, and it kept me from giving this book 4 stars or even 4.5.
Let me begin by saying that the worldbuilding was EXCELLENT. The blurb indicates that we are going to get steampunk elves and that sounded delightful to me. The steampunk elements, however, were somewhat sparse although very important. The airship that explodes and crashes, setting our story in motion, the bridge that is a very important point of contention, the pneumatic message system in the sprawling 'castle' of the emperor, this was about it but it was enough to give the tale a steampunkish flavour.
So, be that as it may, the thing that caused me trouble were the names! The character names, the family names, the faction names, the department names, the place names. I'm all for things being different to give the story a foreign air, but when I can't remember who is who and if they belong to that family or that clan or maybe that's just the name of their family estate and damn, I can't even tell if this is a woman or a man. I STILL can't recall the name of Maia's eventual betrothed! There is A Listing of Persons, Places, Things and Gods in the back of the book, but half the names or words that I looked up thinking they were names, weren't there. (Maybe it's easier for a Young Adult than an Old Lady like me.) At any rate, I don't like having to interrupt the flow of my reading to look up things like that.
But that being said, I enjoyed the tale of Maia and he became the emperor of The Elflands in name and then in fact. I liked his inner dialogue a lot and found it quite reasonable that a boy brought up as he was would be that thoughtful and reflective. I liked him. I also liked the people that surrounded him, his guards, his secretary, his valets and the friends he began to make along the way. (My favourite was Beshelar, the proper, stoic, soldierly half of Maia's first set of guards.)
Katherine's writing kept me turning the pages - just a bit more, just a bit more, just a bit more... you know how that goes. :) The mystery of who was behind the murder of Maia's father and brothers probably should have been obvious to me, but it wasn't. I can't say that I was surprised, but at the 'reveal' I was all head-nodding and "of coursing" under my breath. Oh, I also got a kick out of Maia's grandfather.
So it was a fun read. Interesting. Not as intricate as I was expecting (all the intricacy got used up in the naming conventions, I think!) but I enjoyed it.