The first book I finished in 2023, although I have to admit that I started reading it in the last days of 2022, was this ambitious and completely delightful fantasy published in 2014.
Maia, half-goblin, aged 18, the youngest son of the Emperor of the Elflands lives in seclusion far from the Imperial Court. When his father and three brothers in line for the throne are killed in an airship accident, he becomes Emperor. Having lived far from the palace all his life, under the care of a cruel cousin, he has no one, no friends, no family he can trust, and no one really to school him in the court politics. But he is the Emperor and rule he must.
Don’t go into this book expecting bountiful action and epic battles. There is some court intrigue but ultimately it is a riveting but gentle book, with an awkward, flawed, and completely likeable young man who so happens to find himself now Emperor. A coming of age epic fantasy.
Maia is a fascinating character. The writer has crafted him so carefully, although he may be rather mild and passive for some readers. He is goodhearted, even toward those who have wronged him. As a half-goblin,the dark skin and hair inherited from his mother give him no advantages at the Elflands court. But he bravely takes up the role, showing his humility and empathy in a hostile world.
The many characters, as well as the Elvish and Goblin names take a bit of getting used to. The world building is complicated. But it was entirely worth it.
‘In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.’
‘You consider that unjust, Serenity?’
‘We consider it cruel,’ Maia said. ‘And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.’