Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Brainstorm 180: Summer Shorts - Goblins vs Elves

Summer is here! The end of the school year was a little insane for me on Fridays so I haven’t posted any Brainstorms for a while. School is done now, and until August I’ll just be posting some sporadic blog posts I’m calling Brainstorm Summer Shorts. The Summer Shorts will be pairs of books on a similar theme and a tangential third book that if you squint sideways and use some creative thinking can also be included in that topic. This week’s Summer Shorts pair is a couple of books that focus on the relationships of goblins and elves. In both of them relationships between the two are a bit rocky, and a main character (or characters) is kind of forced into a position to help either make things better or horribly worse. Both cause the readers to think a little bit about the tricky process of overcoming prejudice in society as a whole, being a peacemaker, and negotiating living in a messy mix of multiple cultures.

Summer Shorts Pair

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Maia is the youngest son of the emperor, half-goblin in an elven kingdom, and the son of one of the emperor's wives who fell out of favor. After his mother's death when he was young, he grew up in a remote estate with a cousin who had lost favor at court, where Maia was ill-treated and practically forgotten. That is until the day an air ship exploded that was carrying the emperor and all his other sons. Maia, only eighteen, suddenly finds himself emperor and thrust into a world of court politics and responsibilities he was never prepared to assume. Furthermore, he uncovers evidence that someone purposefully exploded the airship so there's a murderer on the loose who has already struck once. Readers follow Maia as he tries to figure out who he can trust and who is just trying to use him, learn how to act and talk like an emperor, maneuver tricky political situations, come to grips with the fact that his life now belongs to his kingdom rather than his own whims, get to the bottom of the murders of his family and the airship crew (though truth be told, there's no love lost between him and his father), and decide what kind of legacy he wants to leave.

Recommended Readers:

  • Fantasy fans
  • Impressive worldbuilding fans
  • Fantasy award winner fans
  • Royal court politics chess fans
  • Studiers of peacemaking and culture clashes
  • Character growth fans
  • Biracial character fans
  • Mystery fans
  • Adult fiction readers

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson & Eugene Yelchin
Elf historian Brangwain Spurge has been launched over to the goblin kingdom as an emissary to deliver a gift to the Goblin King (and to spy on their power source). He was chosen by his former school bully for his unique qualities...and expendability (but of course he doesn't know that). Werfel is a goblin historian chosen to be the host for Spurge while he is in the goblin lands and awaits a summons to the king's court. Werfel is very excited about the prospect of meeting a fellow historian, the exchange of information about their cultures, and the possible bridge towards peace they could form. But when he meets Spurge his excitement is quickly snuffed out. Spurge is haughty, stuck up, considers everything goblin horrible, and in short, is not a nice person to be around. Still Werfel does his best to be a good host and bends over backwards to try and find something to make the rude elf entertained. The hazard of being Spurge's host, though, is that when the elf inevitably does insult someone or if - heaven forbid - he turns out to be a spy, Werfel is going to have to go on the run with him. But the elves wouldn't send someone that incompetent or obtuse. Would they?

Recommended Readers:

  • Fantasy fans
  • Edward Gorey-ish/Dark Medieval-ish Art Fans
  • Dark humor fans
  • Wordless book fans (some chapters are in wordless illustrations)
  • Studiers of peacemaking and culture clashes
  • Young Adult fiction readers

The Tangential Third

This one doesn’t involve goblins and elves, but it does involve humans and goblins and a clash of cultures (and it is one of the cornerstone pieces of fantasy work involving goblins).

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
George MacDonald's classic story about a kidnapped princess, the goblins who have designs for her future, and a simple but noble and kind young man. A very influential piece of writing for fantasy literature.

Recommended Readers:

  • Fairytale fans
  • Fantasy fans
  • Classic book readers
  • History of literature studiers 
  • Tolkien/Lewis fans (MacDonald's fantasy strongly influenced these writers)
  • Quest/Adventure story fans
  • Middle grade/young adult fiction readers