Fantasy, Fiction

The Goblin Emperor

Cover image for The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

by Katherine Addison

ISBN 9781429946407

“Dach’osmin Ceredin had warned him about Min Vechin, but he wanted a dutiful companion no more than he wanted a mercenary one. He wanted a friend, and that, it seemed, was exactly what he could not have.”

When an airship crash leads to the death of the Emperor of the Elflands and all his immediate successors, the youngest son of Varenechibel IV unexpectedly finds himself on the throne. Half-goblin prince Maia Drazhar has lived his life in exile from his father’s court. Since the death of his mother when he was eight, he has been raised by a relegated cousin who was also out of favour with the emperor. Friendless and largely unschooled in the customs of the court, the new emperor will need to find allies quickly if he is to seize control of a country in turmoil. But there are factions of the court that will never stand for a half-goblin on the throne, and to survive the Untheileneise Court Maia will have to outwit the opposition while also investigating the suspicious deaths of his estranged family.

The Goblin Emperor gets off to a relatively slow start, opening with Maia receiving the stunning news that he his emperor but then spending the first quarter of the book getting him crowned. Add this to the esoteric naming conventions, and the formal court speech style which can feel quite stilted, and this is the type of worldbuilding that it can take a while to sink into. The setting is introduced via an excerpted travelogue or guidebook that gives an overview of the Elflands and the customs of the court. There is also an extensive glossary of places and characters. Please see below for a much livelier introduction to the important characters, humorously detailed by my friend Amelia, who recommended the book!

Presenting: "Who the heck is that!?" by Amelia Garcia Scott, A Very Accurate Guide to the Characters in The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Maia never imagined himself at court, let alone on the throne, and he has little taste for power. In fact, in Maia we find a surprisingly kind and reflective character who is determined not to perpetuate the injustices he has suffered at the hands of his father. As much as he would like to abdicate the responsibility of the crown, the only other possible heirs are still children, and Maia knows enough history to understand that the regency of a minor could result in a disastrous power struggle. At eighteen, he is barely more than a child himself, but the task nevertheless falls to him. The plot follows Maia as he reluctantly learns the ways of the court while also trying to mount an investigation into the airship crash the landed him on the throne.

While the plot follows the investigation into the crash of the Wisdom of Choharo, the emotional arc of the story bends around Maia’s loneliness from his time in exile, and the new form of loneliness he discovers at court as the newly crowned emperor Edrehasivar VII. Surrounded by courtiers, servants, secretaries, and bodyguards, he is nevertheless more isolated than he has ever been. What Maia wants more than anything else is a friend, but it seems that is the one luxury even the Emperor of the Elflands cannot obtain. Everyone at court wants something from him or has their own agenda. However, The Goblin Emperor is more character- than plot-driven, resulting in a surprisingly cozy court intrigue as Maia builds the relationships he will need to rule long and well despite the prejudice that surrounds him.

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Fantasy, Fiction

The Angel of the Crows

Cover image for The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

by Katherine Addison

ISBN 97880765387394

“I know losing your name isn’t as disastrous for you as it would be for one of us. But it still seems terrible to me that all of these women, either nobody noticed they were gone, or nobody cared enough to go to the police and tell them the dead woman’s name.”

The Angel of the Crows is set in a fantasy 1880s England where angels and demons, werewolves and vampires, all are real. But so too are the depravities of mankind, and an all too human serial killer is stalking London’s East End, preying on the vulnerable women who reside there. Guardian angels protect churches and public houses and train stations, but no angel can protect the streets, or claim an entire city. But the Angel of the Crows, who sometimes styles himself the Angel of London, is determined to try, even if it makes him a pariah among his own kind. Meanwhile, Dr. J.H. Doyle has returned from Afghanistan with a secret, following a near-death encounter with the Fallen, former angels who have lost their names. When Dr. Doyle takes up rooming with Crow, unable to afford London living alone on his meagre pension, he finds himself pulled into Crow’s cases and discovers a new sense of purpose.

Unique among angels, Crow is not bound to a single habitation, nor has he slipped back into the ranks of the Nameless or become one of the dreaded Fallen. Crow is a contradiction of a character who both understands humans intimately enough to deduce their motivations, and yet is baffled by certain social conventions and mores. Doyle is more worldly, however he is still grappling with ableism and self-hatred, disgusted by the infirmity of his war wound but unwilling to seek out a aetheric practitioner for fear of his secret being exposed. Together they make approximately one fully functional detective, albeit still very much in need of the services of their landlady and her kitchen staff for day-to-day sustenance.

The book opens with two epigraphs, one from the BBC’s Sherlock, and the other from the Arthur Conan Doyle canon. In episode three of the second season, “The Reichenbach Fall,” Sherlock says “I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” But as the author’s note at the end of the book acknowledges, this book “began as a Sherlock wingfic.” Crow and Doyle are, of course, the analogues for Sherlock and Watson. The majority of the secondary characters, from Inspector Lestrade to Mary Morstan, retain their canonical names. The novel is no racier than the Victorian source material, but Addison does lightly explore gender and sexuality, if perhaps not in the ways that you might be expecting if you’re a Johnlock shipper.

The Angel of the Crows interleaves the Whitechapel Murders with the traditional Sherlock Holmes cases, some of which include A Study in Scarlett and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Katherine Addison mixes in some supernatural elements, but keeps human grievances and motivations at the core. The Whitechapel Murders have been added as a connecting throughline with middling success. Crow has empathy for the women killed by the Whitechapel Murderer, particularly when they are nameless and friendless, unidentified. It is perilously close to the dissolution of a Nameless angel that has lost its habitation. But while there was empathy, there was little nuance or humanity added for these women, and the final resolution—in which Crow and Doyle catch the murderer—felt rushed and anticlimactic.

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