A young half-goblin, half-elf, suddenly becomes emperor, his father and brothers killed in an airship crash. Until that moment, he's been isolated on the edge of the kingdom with an abusive guardian, never dreaming he would need skills relevant to ruling, or indeed, ever meet a female. His arrival at court is a rude awakening, but it also turns out to be the court's rude awakening, as Maia is a kind soul who respects everyone, devastating the pecking order. After many false starts and assassination attempts, Maia grows into his leadership, investigates the mystery of the airship crash, reorders his court, lobbies new technology, and-- oh my!-- has successful interactions with the opposite sex. The world building, with stunning imagery, is sensa -wunda- tastic. I read this around Christmas time, and I still remember two beautiful images, one about a derelict graveyard in which the grass has grown so tall, the gravestones "appeared like small, barren islands in a tempestuous and brittle sea"; the other is just a detail Maia notes after he loses a power struggle and forgets to use the correct tense with an inferior, this: "and Maia himself clasped his hands in his lap and contemplated their darkness and ugly, lumpish knuckles." It's excellent writing that interlaces byzantine politics and alien world-building with simple, recognizable, physical detail.
Delegation, which any leader must do, does get spelled out in triplicate mimeographed minutiae, but the story and writing are such that the endless administrative duties become beautiful in their own way, like Japanese tea ceremonies.
My only regret is that the novel seems oddly short, given the Goblin Emperor's anarchistic sympathies, but, still, lovely.