Sink or swim: The Goblin Emperor Read Along, Part 1

In the first round of our read-along, everything is sudden and nothing is what I expected. And I can’t get enough of this book.

Let’s discuss The Goblin Emperor.

Spoilers follow for chapters 1 through 9.



The first thing that struck me about this book is the formality in the way the characters speak. What do you think of this style? Do you enjoy it?

The mode of speech used here was definitely a bit of a surprise, but what surprised me more was how easily I accepted it. Normally I look a bit sideways at this sort of formality in dialogue, and it can be difficult to engage with. I think this is all the fault of Shakespeare, because while I appreciate and even enjoy his work, I can never quite forget having to study it at school and being driven up the wall by it half the time…

(Though to be fair, more of my experience of Shakespeare involves attractive people speaking attractively and for some reason this helps?)

But anyway! Yeah, I feel like this stands out as a bit of a ‘like it or hate it’ factor. But I like it, so hooray! We’re off to a remarkable start!


The reader, much like Maia in his newfound role, is given very little time to get comfortable before being thrown in at the deep end. How do you feel about this approach to the story? Does it help you to empathise with the newly ascended Emperor?

It makes a lot of sense to me, and I feel like it was a very clever move on the author’s part, to have us ‘experience’ these events at the same pace and in the same way that Maia does. The death of his father literally changes his entire life, and there’s no gentle way to ease into that kind of change. Whether or not Maia had a good relationship with his father and needs to mourn doesn’t matter – he has a responsibility, and what’s interesting is seeing how he handles that. It would be much harder to fall right into a sympathetic point of view as a reader if we were seeing Maia through the eyes of someone else in this story, not to mention it would make the story something entirely different. This is Maia’s story, and it’s not a comfortable position he’s in. I feel like anything else would detract from the impact of everything Maia has to go through, but this way we do get to empathise more because it feels like we’re right there with him. So this is not a soft beginning, but why should it be?

I’m impressed.


Too many cooks spoil the political broth, or so it seems. Are there any characters in particular who stand out to you as being the most potentially troublesome? And on the other hand, who catches your attention as being unusually (potentially) helpful?

Here is where everything starts getting complicated, because there are a lot of names and titles and court positions to remember, and I am bearing in mind that if I struggle with this as a reader, then it’s another window into Maia’s world. That said, this is A LOT. Like, I might actually have to start keeping notes of who is who here…

But Maia’s nohecharei, Cala and Beshelar, and Csevet, definitely impressed me right away. In a whole court full of people with their own schemes and blatantly manipulative intentions, they seem refreshingly genuine and honourable. I hope they stay that way!

On the other hand, Chavar and Setheris can both get right in the sea. Don’t like them, don’t trust them, get them away from my precious Emperor Cinnamon Roll.

Then there’s the widow empress, Csoru – I am not quite sure what I think of her yet. Yes, she definitely seems spoiled and she was not pleased to be put in her place by Maia, but … I don’t know. I think there’s more to her than just a shallow spoiled noble. Time will tell?


So the late emperor was killed deliberately, and now Chavar effectively has control of the investigation. I have to know: do you suspect him at all of being involved in the incident?

I suspect him ENTIRELY. He is pushy AF and I do not trust him. I’m not entirely sure what might have motivated him if he did arrange the former emperor’s death, but the way he’s so clearly commandeering the investigation is making me highly suspicious. Is he just grasping for some sort of power by muscling his way in and taking charge of it? Or is there something to be found that he doesn’t want anyone else to find? Again, time will tell…

But he’s totally the bad guy here. Totally. I am putting money on that right now.


What are your other thoughts/feelings/first impressions?

I love that, despite how soft and unsuitable Maia seems to everyone around him, he is so far holding his own, not being a fool about who can or can’t be trusted, and is bold enough to begin to make changes as the new Emperor.

I mean, it’s probably going to lead to assassination attempts but I am a sucker for exactly this sort of bravery, and I absolutely admire his backbone. If anyone harms him I will riot. Riot, I tell you!






10 comments On Sink or swim: The Goblin Emperor Read Along, Part 1

  • I agree, Chavar is definitely not a good guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the assassination was ordered by someone else. I’m still suspicious of that letter of “kinship” Maia got from the Ambassador Gormened, and the people who wanted Maia’s mother on the throne in the first place. I wonder how that will play into the story.

    Also, “my precious Emperor Cinnamon Roll”….. I’m surprised how much this sums up my feelings of Maia. What a perfect narrator. He has morals and cares about the little things, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy putting people in their place. I hope he keeps the things that make him human.

  • I think Chavar is just the biggest ego in the room (and given the ‘room’ is the imperial palace, that’s pretty damn big), but buuuuh he annoys me. So while I think he may be ‘a’ bad guy – in the sense I find it hard to imagine him wishing Maia well and shuffling into supportive line – I’m not sure he’s ‘the’ bad guy behind The Wisdom of Choharo (although I can’t remember who is!)

    But I adore Csevet, Cala and Beshelar. While I’m not sure any of them will ever unbend protocol enough to give Maia the hug he so clearly needs, at least they have been reassuringly protective of his best interests. I loved Csevet’s offer to ‘reply at length without actually saying anything’ – that’s the sort of secretary an emperor needs!

  • I’m really enjoying this so far – it makes me suspect everyone and I think that’s a good thing, i like books that make me constantly think and/or revise my opinion.
    Chavar is definitely a dodgy character and I was positively cheering when Maia stood up to him. In some respects it doesn’t make sense for him to have killed off the Emperor and all his heirs unless he really did think he could steal control which is quite possible now I think about it.
    Lynn πŸ˜€

  • I’m enjoying the story too and like that Maia seems to be able to trust Cala, Beshelar, and Csevet, but, honestly, I’m suspicious of everyone right now. Even Maia sometimes, lol. Everyone except Cala.

  • YES! Absolutely LOVE Maia for being the emperor who says thank you and acknowledges the ‘little people’ – I feel like the Court is underestimating the strength of compassion and I hope they all pay!
    Am loving this book so far!

  • The language definitely took me aback! Once I got used to it, I thought it was at a perfect mix of formality & gravitas with readability – Addison doesn’t overdo it, just does enough. And I did get some automatic maybe not useful comparisons from the language at first too.

    All the characters/worldbuilding/overwhelmingness doesn’t feel too bad for me, but I’m not trying to remember everything right now. Figure everything will become clear. That said, personally, once I get past all the terminology, it all feels familiar to other fantasies and there’s no more characters than a lot of fantasy novels.

    I am curious to see what happens with Setheris. He’s a tool so far but nothing more, nothing less. Is he forgotten? If not, does he become better without the bitterness of exile – or is he going to get worse?

    Finally… I hadn’t suspected Chavar until you said it, but it does seem to make sense now, albeit in a mostly narrative sense of “its probably someone we’ve seen and I’m not sure who else makes sense”.

    • I’m not sure Setheris will get worse without some significant nudging toward a certain course of action by someone else *looks at his wife* – but I don’t know… Right now I think maybe he and his wife have gotten what they want by being allowed to return to court. But with Maia now saying he wants Setheris nowhere near him… Who knows.

      Re: the terminology – yeah, I have to just try to take it as it comes and trust that the relevant things will stand out to me later. But initially, yeah, I got a bit snowed under by it. I’m still into it, though! πŸ˜€

      • It feels like there *might* be a romance hinted at there between Maia and Setheris’ wife? Maybe Setheris gets jealous?

        And yeah, I’d forgotten about Maia saying he wants Setheris nowhere near him, but the shape of stories tells me he’s probably not getting what he wants. Feels like there’s too much been put into that for it to go nowhere.

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