What to read after The Goblin Emperor?
April 9, 2019 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I just finished The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I found it scratched a similar itch to Becky Chambers’ books, which I loved. What should I read next? I’m home with a bad cold today, so it’s a perfect time to curl up and read.

I loved the focus on interpersonal relationships, and navigating a complex social system.
posted by ocherdraco to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
I asked a question in a similar vein a little while ago and got some good responses there.

Recent books I've really enjoyed that gave me a similar feeling of satisfaction while reading them:

An Unkindness of Ghosts - Rivers Solomon
What is Visible - Kimberly Elkins
The Sparrow and Children of God - Mary Doria Russell

I will be watching this thread with interest as books like this are also exactly my jam.
posted by terretu at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2019

Sharon Shinn is great for this kind of worldbuilding. Troubled Waters is my favorite for this kind of story about people trying their best while navigating a new society. I love Archangel, too (please ignore hideous cover),though some of the sexual politics are dated. (There are also some squicky sexual politics, but the book deals directly with them in good ways, I think.)

If you read comics, I'd highly recommend Giant Days, which is about a group of friends at college and gives me the same warm happy as the two books you mention.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:18 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jo Walton, Tooth and Claw. As in Goblin Emperor, there are scrappy, likable Dickensian types, as well as a complex social order to be navigated and possibly tipped towards some kinds of equality. Also, you know, dragons.

I'm recommending Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver a lot these days--it's great, though it's not as cozy as the Addison or Chambers. It's very much about social connections but court intrigue is not as big a part of the plot as it is in Goblin Emperor.
posted by miles per flower at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2019 [7 favorites]

You might like Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison’s previous series, The Doctrine of Labyrinths. It starts with Melusine. I’m not sure it would hit the spots you’re looking for or not, I’ve never read Becky Chambers. It’s definitely a good bit darker than The Goblin King, but it features a complex society and magic system, and the city of Melusine itself is a central character, really richly and evocatively described. The main focus of the series is the relationship between two brothers, Felix, a wizard, and Mildmay the Fox, a thief. Unfortunately, some are out of print and can only be bought secondhand, and it doesn’t look like the first book is available as an ebook, but they are worth reading if you like complex fantasy worlds.
posted by catatethebird at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed Melissa Scott's Astreint series, although you might want to start with the second or third books (they were written a bit out of order and the first one is rather different from the later ones; it will probably be more enjoyable if you read it as backstory after you've read the others.)
posted by Frowner at 9:31 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, by Curtis Craddock. Definitely a complex social system, and lots of focus on interpersonal relationships and personal growth. The plot has a bit more tension than The Goblin Emperor, but overall I would still describe it as feel-good. And bonus, the sequel just came out!
posted by scalar_implicature at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2019

Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy might be up your alley.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

Ann Leckie’s newest, The Raven Tower, definitely gave me Goblin Emperor vibes. (And the Ancillary series is SO GOOD.)
posted by rebeccabeagle at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am reading Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire right now, which reminds me of Goblin Emperor in its focus on court intrigue.
posted by waffleriot at 10:51 AM on April 9, 2019

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is darker, but definitely mixes imperial politics with personal relationships in a similar way. I loved it, even though it made me sad.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

And I came in to recommend Ann Leckie's standalone Provenance. It felt very Chambers-esque to me in the same way that The Goblin Emperor did—gently paced and character driven, (relatively) low-key stakes to impel the plot without getting crazy bombastic, and ultimately open-ended. And Leckie certainly does the complex social systems thing.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I feel like Michael Swannick's Stations of the Tide might achieve a similar vibe through very different means.
posted by mumkin at 11:05 AM on April 9, 2019

This might sound crazy until I explain, but I'm in the 4th volume of The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and have a good bit of what you might be looking for. Murderbot is a Security Unit, a manufactured soldier for physical security-for-hire. Most SecUnits have a technological governor (which gives orders and punishment for failing to follow them) that essentially enslaves their psyche, but the self-named Murderbot has, we learn on page 1 of "All Systems Red," hacked its governor and is thus a rogue unit, able to make its own decisions, including moral ones.

It has so far just been imitating its old self, though, protecting some archeologists from things that want to eat them, but as they become dependent on it for protection from something worse, they also become friendly with it, and Murderbot (so named because of an event from its slavery days) has to navigate human relationships with its crews, for the very first time, from scratch and based on observation. The whole series gives one the impression that MB is an allegorical autistic person, albeit one with guns built into its arms. Beyond that, there's detective work and some action and violence; which may or may not be your thing. The books are 4 novella-length stories that should be read in order. I won't say the books are primarily about social navigation, but they are to a substantial degree, and would be pretty pulpy without it.

Technology-wise, they're not a far cry from Becky Chambers book (I've only read the first): planets are all over, they're connected days-long spaceship trips; the ships are sometimes characters. Also, later in the books Wells takes a page from Ann Leckie vis-a-vis gender pronouns. Leckie has the pull-quote on the cover of each book: "I love Murderbot!" and quite frankly, so do I.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

Possibly Victoria Goddard's The Hands of the Emperor, which I enjoyed very much. Like Becky Chambers, the author allows good things to happen.
posted by chromium at 1:27 PM on April 9, 2019

You may like crown duel by Sherwood smith
posted by azalea_chant at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2019

So I loved The Goblin Emperor but could not get along at all with Becky Chambers; I also loved Spinning Silver, if that helps orient my taste.

I recommend Serephina; family, found family, a semi-complex social order and tolerance is very important, but there is more conflict and tension than I found in Becky Chambers' work (hence its similarity to The Goblin Emperor for me).
posted by citands at 5:31 AM on April 10, 2019

Seraphina is excellent, and I love Murderbot so very deeply. Also, Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy has beautiful writing and fantastic worldbuilding, and are just wonderful. You would probably really like them.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:07 AM on April 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I will obviously be using this thread as a reference for some time, but wanted to let y’all know that I’ve started The Raven Tower and I’m enjoying it!
posted by ocherdraco at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thank you for asking this great question - I, too, really enjoyed The Goblin Emperor and Becky Chambers (haven't even read the second and third yet, yay!).

I found some somewhat similar things to like in Uprooted, also by Naomi Novik.

Also I for some reason am kind of thinking of Connie Willis (especially To Say Nothing of the Dog), although it may not in fact hit the same specific notes you're looking for.

Hope you're feeling better!
posted by kristi at 6:42 PM on April 14, 2019

Oops, no, sorry, wait - I'm conflating Uprooted and Graceling, by Kristen Cashore. I think Graceling actually has a little more of the Goblin Emperor feel, but I think both have some elements of what you're looking for.
posted by kristi at 6:51 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Incidently, Katherine Addison is working on a sequel to The Goblin Emperor...
posted by MartinWisse at 10:51 AM on April 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Yay!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:42 AM on April 16, 2019

Response by poster: Just wanted to say that I have read Tooth and Claw and The Murderbot Diaries because of this thread, and both are definitely right up my alley. It also reminded me that while I had read the first Ancillary book I had not read the others which I’m doing now. I keep coming back to this thread for recommendations. Thanks all!
posted by ocherdraco at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2020

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