Goblins, emperors and assassins, oh my!

I have a strong preference for character-driven fiction.  If I can't bring myself to care about what happens to the characters or the characters fail to act in a fashion consistent with how they've been described, I tend to put the book down long before finishing it. The worst I've read recently was a well-reviewed urban fantasy where the main character, a nurse, expressed concern about bodily fluid borne disease transmission from her intravenous drug using brother.  The very next thing the character did was to go unwind at a bar and pick up a random stranger for the night.  The author lost me right then and there when the main character couldn't stay consistent in her actions and behaviors for even a single chapter... and I really wanted to like that book too after the good reviews. 

The Goblin Emperor book jacketOne book I've read recently that did have great characters who were well-drawn and consistently portrayed and who really drew the reader into the life of the novel is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  In this world, the goblins are warlike but not the bestial hordes that they are usually portrayed as in fantasy.  The elves have an early steampunk sort of technology including pneumatic tubes and airships.  Maia has been raised far from the court in a lonely and, since his mother died, loveless exile.  Maia is the half goblin, last and least-loved son of the elf emperor.  When his father and all his half brothers die in a fiery crash, Maia is summoned back to the rigid and formal elven court as the sole surviving heir to the imperial throne with unknown assassins aiming for his imperial head.

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, a grimmer novel than the fairly gentle Goblin Emperor, the emperor has scattered his threeThe Emperor's Blades book jacket children across his land.  The heir is learning humility (and something else) being raised by monks in rural isolation.  The second son is learning to be a commando-like warrior and the daughter, unable to inherit, is made a minister by her father so her clever mind isn't wasted.  The emperor is assassinated and his three scattered children have to survive the forces arrayed against them in this excellent series set up.

Broken Blade book jacketLastly, if you would prefer a story about a killer of kings rather than the children of emperors, I'd like to recommend the Fallen Blade novels by Kelly McCullough.  Beginning with Broken Blade, you learn the story of Aral Kingslayer, one of the last survivors of a religious order that existed to bring a very final sort of justice to those too powerful for the law to touch. Of course, said powerful and corrupt went to great lengths to bring down the holy avengers of the weak and wronged. The series opens with Aral living in despair, addicted to drugs and selling his services for his next fix.  He hates himself and what he has become and still grieves for his dead comrades and goddess.  The one thing keeping him going is his familiar, a shadow dragon named Triss, but then he's contacted for another job....

Add new comment