This is without a doubt a book of quality. Its prose is well constructed, its characters are consistently written, it’s worldbuilding and setting are lush and vibrant with internal consistency and style. It is by any measure a good book.
The Goblin Emperor is a reasonably popular book. Most people who read it (at least from the reviews I’ve read), enjoy it. They like the political intrigue where a misspoken word can result in your death. They like Maia as a protagonist, who refuses to be contaminated by the court’s cruelty. They like the almost-ethereal worldbuilding of elvish kingdoms, contrasted against the early industrial era of airships, bombs and terrorist attacks.
People who like this book for those reasons are entirely valid in their enjoyment, for I liked those aspects of this book as well. Maia is an emperor, but I was surprised with how little agency he has. (Agency=the narrative aspect of a character’s ability to influence the plot) You’d expect the emperor to have lots of agency and control of his circumstances, but Maia is so constrained by ritual and tradition that it often feels like he’s the weakest person in any given scene. I truly felt empathy for Maia, and I had genuine emotional connection when Maia finally made friends with people who were previously frosty with him. This isn’t something I can say for all protagonists, Maia is genuinely a fantastic character.
But, damn it, this book is just tedious.
It’s pacing is slow as molasses. The book’s tension felt nonexistent to me. When the twist happened at the 60% point I thought to myself, “FINALLY SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.” This book would have been well served to be significantly shorter, so that twist happened at the 20% mark. After that 60% mark the book became very compelling and I truly enjoyed it. But 60% was too long a wait.
There were other problems. This book has only something vaguely resembling a plot, a good chunk of which occurs offscreen. The majority of the characters in this book are detestable, making it hard to read the book (at least until Maia befriends them). I listened to the audiobook, and all the weird elvish names and elvish words didn’t survive the translation into the audio format. When the narrator spoke elvish words and names, they blurred into one another and became garbled; I didn’t know who any of the characters are, or what the in-world rituals were or anything like that.
Is this a good book? Absolutely.
Is it a book for me? No, it is not.
This is a short book, again by Thich Nhat Hanh, about living in the moment and being happy. It’s only 120 pages long. I got the audiobook version for free through Audible Plus. It was good.
Shinto and New Japanese Religions
This is another member of the Ben Kingsley series on world religions. This covered Shinto and the other religions of Japan. It was good, but it was short. I learned some new things.
Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity
This is yet another member of the Ben Kingsley series, this time on Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Christianity. It focuses more on the shared history between the two, as opposed to the nuances of theology between them. Again, good, but short.