It’s week 3 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 1-26.
These chapters open with a very candid, yet significantly warmer than most, conversation between Maia and Arbelan, and from there things begin to change as Maia learns to act with more confidence. Do you think Arbelan’s kinder treatment of him is what sparks this, and if so, how much of an impact do you think it had?
I didn’t really think about this conversation increasing Maia’s confidence. I suppose it did to some degree, but I think Maia’s increased confidence can be attributed to a number of factors. First, he’s starting to realize he has multiple supporters: Arbelan, Berenar, the goblin ambassador, etc. Second, I think he’s just become more comfortable in his role now that he’s been emperor for a month or two, and while he still feels in over his head, he’s no longer all-out drowning like he was at first. He’s determined to be a good emperor and realizes he can’t do this if he allows himself to be overly influenced by others.
The river bridge scheme proves to be a delightful plot point to push a lot of character interaction forward, as well as opening up the scope of this world. Were you surprised by the developments involving Lord Pashavar?
I was very happy to see Maia taking the initiative to decide that the bridge plans were important for the Corazhas to hear and figuring out who he needed to convince to make that a reality. Up to this point he’s been pretty much trusting other people’s judgement (primarily Csevet’s) on everything, but he came to this decision largely on his own.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how the dinner with Lord Pashavar and his family went. Pashavar’s family was gracious, but Maia also held his own, again with very little help from others. He even impressed Pashavar by taking initiative and convinced him not to veto the bridge plans before he ever saw them. I think this is an important development for Maia because it’s really the first time we’ve seen him manage and even enjoy a more personal court function, which will be vital to his success as emperor. (I don’t count the opera where he spoke the bare minimum or the dinner with the Goblin Ambassador where he encountered very little opposition.)
Like a train gathering steam, a great deal of plot drama happens here. Let’s talk about Shevean and Chavar. Were you surprised by their gambit? And how do you feel about the way it all played out (ie. Idra’s decision to put his foot down)?
I was surprised, and also I wasn’t. Meaning, I hadn’t actually predicted it, but it also seems like at least one attempt to dethrone Maia was to be expected. I like the way it played out, and I think it makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, Idra is smart and not really close to his mother because she’s hardly the one that raised him. Also, I think Maia’s foresight in already having talked to Idra had already nudged him slightly more to Maia’s side.
We get another surprising turnaround from Ceredin, Maia’s intended empress-to-be, as well. What are your thoughts on her by the end of these chapters, compared to her initial impression?
I actually wasn’t too surprised by Ceredin’s somewhat sudden familiarity and intense loyalty. I got the sense that she was smart and strong willed by her association with Vedero and her previous letters and interactions with Maia simply seemed as though she was being shrewdly cautious. I liked her at the end of the last section, and I like her even more now. I don’t think her relationship with Maia will be conflict-free, but I do think she’ll be a good match, loyal and resourceful, and perhaps eventually be a friend.
The story, and perhaps the danger, is not quite over yet … any thoughts on what might be in store in the final chapters?
I’m bad at specific predictions. It seems Maia has very little opposition left within the court now that Shevean, Chavar, and Setheris are taken care of, so I think the final sections will be more focused on relationships with other countries and taking care of things in further reaches of his realm. (Most notably, the Avar of Barizhan and the bridge.) We also have to get a resolution for his father’s assassination. Though I’m reluctant, I’m going to make a guess and say this was not an inside job from within the court. I can actually see it being a plot of the Avar of Barizhan to get his grandson, someone he might be able to control, on the throne, though I don’t find it particularly likely. I still hope that Maia’s grandfather will be an ally.
As always: any other bits and pieces you’d like to highlight?
I enjoyed the first week’s reading, found last week’s to be a little more boring, and was absolutely enthralled this week. I love Maia’s character development, that we encountered more action, and that we got to learn more about the culture and history of the realm. (For example, Dazhis’ revethvoran and the ongoing war.)
I find it interesting how often Maia’s religious inclinations have been mentioned. I think he won’t be truly successful and comfortable as an emperor until he finds a way to be able to meditate and perhaps help the “church” to regain some of the respect that it seems to have lost, particularly since the Archprelate seems to have taken an interest in him.
I find the familiarity that Cala showed toward Maia in this section to be a bit ironic considering his earlier warning to him of becoming too familiar with the nohecharei. Not that I don’t want them to be friendly, of course.
I can’t wait to see more interactions between Maia and Ceredin and to find out how things will play out between him and the Avar of Barizhan. Interestingly, I hardly care about who was responsible for his father’s death, but perhaps the answer will be much more shocking than I think it will. I’m impatient… I think I might just go ahead and finish the book up tonight (Friday).