It’s week 2 of the Wyrd & Wonder readalong of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. The readalong is hosted by Lisa from Deer Greek Place, and you can find the Goodreads discussion where the questions are posted here. This post contains spoilers for chapters 1-17.
1. So many verbal encounters. So much political muck! Let’s start with Princess Sheveän, who seemed so very outraged at the idea of the late emperor’s body being ‘desecrated’. Do you buy that as her reasoning? Or do you think she was making a scene for another reason?
A little bit of both. I think Sheveän was genuinely worried about the potential desecration of her husband’s body. At the same time, she already disliked Maia and so would be happy to do anything to call into question his actions and make the court doubt him even more. Thus, she was far from careful about presenting her grievances privately or politely.
2. Cala and Vedero both have some hard but pragmatic advice for Maia here: Cala’s concern is for the emperor being seen to be weak for treating his nohecharei as equals when their job is to protect him; and Vedero’s situation is different but her concern is basically the same as Cala’s. She seems alarmed at the idea that Maia might go against society and tradition by refusing to bargain for a marriage for her. How do you feel about these scenes, and the conversations between them? Are they being too harsh and/or cynical, or is Maia simply being too naive?
I was a bit surprised and saddened by Cala’s conversation with Maia, and it did seem a bit harsh. Yes, Maia probably should have been more careful about showing his relationship to the nohecharei, but I don’t think it’s necessary for him to stop conversating with them all together. It might go against tradition, but it’s also not something that really concerns anyone else at the court, and it seems like rather a small thing in the grand scheme of things. I think it would probably have been overlooked all together if he had not chosen them as his companions on the day of his coronation.
Vedero, on the other hand, I think was simply trying to counter Maia’s naivety. She’s been groomed all of her life to serve as a political pawn as someone’s bride, and she knows that this is not something that will be overlooked by the court. It’s her duty to be wed whether she wants to be or not, and she can’t afford to suggest anything else to Maia knowing that he might take her suggestion seriously and make enemies of many people in his realm. I appreciate the decision Maia eventually made to give Vedero time and instead get married himself relatively soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it caused him more problems.
3. Setheris attempts to come at Maia from his more abusive position, clearly intending to railroad his cousin into giving him a position at court he feels is worthy of him. Yet Maia sticks to his intention of sending Setheris somewhere he will not have so much easy access to the new emperor. Do you think, with that, that Setheris’s days of troubling Maia are over?
As I said last week, Setheris is a good character, though one that I despise. Because of this, I doubt that we’ll never see him again, particularly since it seems unlikely that his wife was introduced for just one scene. At the same time, Maia’s victory over Setheris here could make a good ending for this part of his story. So I guess I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
4. A discovery is made that the sabotage of the Wisdom of Choharo may have been caused by the Cetho Workers League – a “dissident group”. Do you think this will lead to a resolution of the investigation, or did the plot just thicken?
I’m skeptical that this is really all there is to it both because it’s a bit early in the story to present the actual solution and because the Cetho Workers League is so removed from Maia that it doesn’t seem like they would make a very compelling villain. The exception to this might be if Maia finds out that their sabotage is a result of having been greatly wronged by the previous emperor and feels the need to rectify this.
5. Maia’s grandfather is coming to court for Winternight, though this seems to please Maia far more than it pleases Chavar … What do you make of Chavar’s open disagreeableness during the dinner at the ambassador’s home? Is it plain arrogance (albeit the racist kind), or do you think his disapproval of goblin folk runs deeper than that?
First off, I just have to say that I loved this scene of dinner with the ambassador, and that Maia finally found a group of people who are not waiting to jump upon his failure. Not to mention that he was able to make acquaintance with others of his own race. This is even better than I was hoping for when I said last week that I hoped Maia would meet more of his family!
As for Chavar, I didn’t read anything special into his disagreeableness at the dinner just because he seems to be disagreeable most of the time, at least with anything involving Maia. I do think he’s racist, as most of the elves seem to be. He definitely isn’t happy about Maia’s grandfather’s future visit, but that seems like popular opinion and he definitely isn’t one to keep his opinions concealed.
Overall thoughts and impressions:
First, I know we haven’t even met Maia’s future wife yet, but I am happy with his decision. It seems like she’s academically inclined, has no reason to dislike him that we know about, and will be accepted by the court. It was a nice touch that he got to use his mother’s signet ring. It’s great that he’s finding that not every single person at court is against him. I hated how badly his attempts at socializing went, though I’m sure they’re rather realistic. I suppose I’m particularly empathetic for him because I’ve never been very socially adept either.
Overall, I’m continuing to really enjoy this book, though I did find a couple of these chapters a bit slower or less engaging than last week. I think we’re ramping up for some bigger action and more plot development in the next section.