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The Witness for the Dead

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Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel. When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found t Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel. When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin. Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness. Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books – wide and deep and true. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.


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Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel. When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found t Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel. When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin. Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness. Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books – wide and deep and true. At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

30 review for The Witness for the Dead

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mayim de Vries

    “A terrible result does not always have a terrible cause.” We would like to befriend Othala Celehar. He is our new favourite everyday hero. A cat-feeding, ghoul banishing kind of hero. What more could one ask for? Witness of the Dead is not an occupation, it is more of a religious calling that necessitates certain abilities. The tasks involve everything from performing funerals to speaking with the dead (or, more accurately, empathising with them) to murderer hunting with occasional undead banishm “A terrible result does not always have a terrible cause.” We would like to befriend Othala Celehar. He is our new favourite everyday hero. A cat-feeding, ghoul banishing kind of hero. What more could one ask for? Witness of the Dead is not an occupation, it is more of a religious calling that necessitates certain abilities. The tasks involve everything from performing funerals to speaking with the dead (or, more accurately, empathising with them) to murderer hunting with occasional undead banishment in between. Should we were not content in our present occupation, we would most assuredly consider a change of professional career. Overall, we find this book exquisite. We very much loved The Goblin Emperor, and although The Witness for the Dead appears to be a sequel, it is rather a companion novel than anything else. Thara Celehar had an important but at the same time marginal role in book one and so it is irrelevant whether you read or remember what had happened before especially that it has only an indirect resonance in this novel. Indeed, we did not manage to refresh our memory with a re-read, and in the end, it mattered not a jot. We have found The Goblin Emperor to be a treasure trove of ingenious world-building ideas, exquisite characterisation and seamless narrative. It was definitely standing apart from the grimdark crowd on the one side and then the clichéd anthropocentric assemblage on the other side of the fantasy gala. We have expected a similar quality here. And yet, we would be very hard-pressed if you asked us whether this is a character-, a story-, or a world-driven book. There is no doubt that everything evolves around Thara and his calling. Are you bored with jaded moral relativists so coveted by grimdark authors? Othala Celehar comes to your rescue. We have found him to be an inspiriting personage. Thara pursues his calling despite adversities, despite the costs, despite the social and political conundrum his commission places him in. In fact, he cares neither about the rank nor about the riches although he is so poor that he can barely afford light and heating and wears only second-hand clothes. He is a gentle and delicate person endowed with a harsh and gravelled voice and, by his own admission, has no gift of conversation, and is a bad liar. He is also so lonely that stray cats whom he feeds sardines seem to be his closest companions in the world. No wonder he’s best friends with the dead, eh? In other words, all these nuances, these fractions, if not outright contradictions render Othala Celehar a perfect protagonist able to carry the main burden of the story on his respectably if a tad shabbily appareled shoulders. At the same time, Witness vel ama is a sort of a cleric detective bound to the mysteries of the dead entrusted into his care, be it a murder or a problematic inheritance. The main plot has our protagonist witnessing for an opera singer, who died mysteriously. However, there are also other deceased souls who have their last champion in him. In this aspect, the novel veers from a fantasy into a mystery more than anything else. Piecing the puzzle together is done very neatly, without sudden reveals, rather through deduction, attention to detail and a dollop of luck, which is rooted in the dutiful nature of Othala Celehar who never shirks even the most mundane or gruel tasks. Then there is the allure of the Elflands, definitely incomparable when it comes to the creativity of the world. Court manners and endearing peculiarities of the elven/goblin society notwithstanding, this book takes us as far as possible from the splendid opulence of the Imperial Court as everything takes place in a provincial backwater. This setting has its benefits as, in the first place Othala Celehar is not stifled so much by protocols and, secondly, he meets a fascinating variety of characters and visits all sorts of fun places that would be definitely out of bounds for His Imperial Serenity. And so, as Thara the person meets Thara the detective in the daily routine where the main crime enigma melds with other two minor cases, it becomes obvious that it is not the city of Amalo but rather Thara’s soul where the dead, the undead and the ghosts also mingle. Throughout the novel, we were wondering why Othala Celehar has all the compassion for the dead and none for himself. We did not understand why he is so empathetic for the deceased and so ruthless for himself. It was as if Thara was punishing himself day after day without a reason at all. Unfortunately, when that reason is finally revealed, en passant, might we add, there is no catharsis that would mean a change or at least a liberation. And in that, we find the only flaw of the novel. We did like the predecessor better, but it does not mean that accompanying Thara wasn’t delightful. While we lacked the political intrigues and manoeuvres (Thara while trapped into the web of colliding interests and competing powers, is far too straightforward and too inward-looking to care about things so mundane), The Witness for the Dead has its own set of charms. Therefore, even though “delightful” is perhaps not the first adjective that comes to our mind when we think about funerals and murders and undead, The Witness for the Dead is precisely that. A lot is thanks to the beguilingly simple language which in truth must be fiendishly difficult to execute for a writer. But the lightness of the prose, despite the ubiquitous morbidity, allowed us to finish the book within a day. And want for more. Also in the series: 1. The Goblin Emperor ★★★★★

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    A society of elves and goblins mixed with a murder mystery/detective story, investigated by a shy, gay, and kind elf. Final review! First posted on FantasyLiterature.com: The Witness for the Dead is the long-hoped-for sequel to Katherine Addison’s marvelous and unusual 2014 fantasy, The Goblin Emperor, in which we met Maia, a half-goblin, half-elf young man who unexpectedly inherited the throne of the elf kingdom when his father, the emperor, was killed along with his brothers in an airship explo A society of elves and goblins mixed with a murder mystery/detective story, investigated by a shy, gay, and kind elf. Final review! First posted on FantasyLiterature.com: The Witness for the Dead is the long-hoped-for sequel to Katherine Addison’s marvelous and unusual 2014 fantasy, The Goblin Emperor, in which we met Maia, a half-goblin, half-elf young man who unexpectedly inherited the throne of the elf kingdom when his father, the emperor, was killed along with his brothers in an airship explosion. Thara Celehar, an elven prelate and a Witness for the Dead, was a minor character in that novel who investigated the airship accident at Maia’s request and eventually was able to unearth the truth of why it occurred. The Witness for the Dead is more of a companion novel set in the same world, rather than a direct sequel, so it can be read as a stand-alone book, but it’ll give you a better grounding in this world if you read The Goblin Emperor first. This book picks up with Thara’s life some time after he has left the elven court, leaving behind a slight cloud of scandal — Thara is gay, and his married lover was executed for murdering his own wife. Thara has now moved to the city of Amalo and taken up his calling again as a Witness for the Dead. A Witness for the Dead wears several hats, including murder investigator, priest and funeral director, but Thara also has the unusual magical ability to touch a dead body and sense memories and impressions from the spirit of the person who died. When a woman’s body is pulled out of the canal in Amalo, Celehar is asked to investigate to find out who she is — which doesn’t take too long — and who killed her and why, which is far more difficult to determine. For one thing, her bones aren’t telling Thara anything really useful, so he has to rely on other, more mundane investigative methods. For another, the woman was an opera singer who had an unfortunate habit of making an enemy of nearly everyone around her. One of her enemies is the in-house composer for the Vermilion Opera, Mer Pel-Thenhior, to whom Celehar is rather reluctantly attracted. There are a couple of other interesting subplots that help to liven up this murder mystery novel. One involves a missing pregnant woman whose family believes that her husband killed her, eventually leading to a trail of questionable deaths. The other subplot concerns the wealthy Duhalin family whose patriarch has died, leaving behind some greedy heirs who are disputing which of two wills is the real one and which is the forgery. When Celehar announces his finding, based on touching the grandfather’s cremated ashes, it has repercussions for him as well as for the Duhalin family members. To try to avoid the resulting trouble, Celehar is packed out of town and told to take care of a ghoul problem in a small mining town two days’ journey away. Ghouls start out eating dead meat but sooner or later switch to killing and eating the living. Celehar’s talents include the ability to quiet and rebury ghouls (more permanently the second time around), but the journey turns out far more exciting and dangerous than he expected. Actually I found both of these subplots more intriguing than the main plotline. The opera singer’s scandalous ways couldn’t quite make up for the plodding nature of Celahar’s investigation. The main beauty of The Witness for the Dead isn’t in the main murder mystery plot, which is serviceable but not particularly memorable, but in Addison’s extraordinarily fine world- and character-building. Like The Goblin Emperor, The Witness for the Dead is somewhat slow-paced but lovely in its detailed world-building. Addison has created a richly-imagined, steampunk-flavored fantasy world, slightly touched by magic, and brimful with vivid, realistic details, like stray cats that impatiently wait for handouts and teahouses with fragrant, exotic offerings. There’s a wide variety of skin tones and eye colors, especially due to the mixing between goblins and elves, which is far more prevalent here than in Maia’s court. Addison’s characters are well-rounded and realistic. Thara Celehar is a particularly complex soul: he’s humble and shy, tending toward melancholy and isolation, and on the edge of poverty. At the same time, he’s a decent, kindhearted man who’s resolutely determined to be honest and to do his duty, even in the face of daunting opposition. He’s also rather awkward and ill-at-ease with others, even with the charming part-goblin Pel-Thenhior … who is, unfortunately for Thara, one of the chief suspects in the opera singer’s murder. The Witness for the Dead isn’t as brilliant or delightful as The Goblin Emperor (few books are), but it’s still well worth reading if you were a fan of that book and have been longing to return to that world. If Addison writes more stories or novels set in this world, I’ll definitely be there for them. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Rogerson

    Loved this. All my thanks to my agent and the wonderful people at Tor for the opportunity to read it early. At first I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as much as The Goblin Emperor, but it fully grabbed me by about 1/3 of the way through and left me with the same feelings of warmth and hope for humanity. Reading Goblin Emperor first isn't necessary, though I do recommend it. I've preordered and am already looking forward to re-reading. Loved this. All my thanks to my agent and the wonderful people at Tor for the opportunity to read it early. At first I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as much as The Goblin Emperor, but it fully grabbed me by about 1/3 of the way through and left me with the same feelings of warmth and hope for humanity. Reading Goblin Emperor first isn't necessary, though I do recommend it. I've preordered and am already looking forward to re-reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Roanhorse

    Delightful. I may have loved this one more than its predecessor, as this was much more in the vein of a pure detective novel and the other was political intrigue with a dash of mystery. Once again, these books always seem to come to me when I'm stressed out and I need someone good to cheer for. This book had some nice worldbuilding and a story with medium to low stakes but still a handful of murders. Add to that a dash of opera, a plethora of teahouses, a few truly creepy nights with ghouls and Delightful. I may have loved this one more than its predecessor, as this was much more in the vein of a pure detective novel and the other was political intrigue with a dash of mystery. Once again, these books always seem to come to me when I'm stressed out and I need someone good to cheer for. This book had some nice worldbuilding and a story with medium to low stakes but still a handful of murders. Add to that a dash of opera, a plethora of teahouses, a few truly creepy nights with ghouls and ghosts, enough backstabbers to make any proper upright citizen righteously angry, and a fun mystery or three to solve. It's like an elves and goblins Fantasy cozy! Now I know there are probably legit complaints about too much this or not enough that, but honestly, when I come away just feeling like I've spent some time in my happy book place, I don't care about the nitpicking. Well done, and Ulis bless Thara Celehar, that delightful man...err...elf. I would read a whole series of him being kind and solving murders.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Guys we have a title and holy crap I didn't think I could get more excited but I SO AM. ************************** OH MY GOD I NEED THIS SO BAD That is all. Guys we have a title and holy crap I didn't think I could get more excited but I SO AM. ************************** OH MY GOD I NEED THIS SO BAD That is all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I got the ARC! So of course I had to re-read Goblin Emperor to get myself prepared for the sequel. BUT. It's not really necessary to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one. I mean, sure, we get to know the cleric Witness for the Dead in the first book, but only in the capacity for solving the overall mystery. This sequel does not have the same cohesive worldbuilding and plot as the first, but that's all right, too. What we should expect is a continuation of the humanist feel, an I got the ARC! So of course I had to re-read Goblin Emperor to get myself prepared for the sequel. BUT. It's not really necessary to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one. I mean, sure, we get to know the cleric Witness for the Dead in the first book, but only in the capacity for solving the overall mystery. This sequel does not have the same cohesive worldbuilding and plot as the first, but that's all right, too. What we should expect is a continuation of the humanist feel, an exploration of the world, its peoples, and plenty of side mysteries plagued with politics both big and small. It's comforting. It's even something of a gentle ramble. I admit I like the first book better and I'm afraid I expected more out of this one because of it, but it was still quite interesting. The most important part is the feel -- and it felt comforting. It is, after all, a journey.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/06/29/... The Witness for the Dead is marketed as a standalone sequel to Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, but to tell the truth, it’s more of a separate story rather than a direct continuation. The story follows protagonist Thara Celehar, who holds the titular role of Witness for the Dead, or someone who has the ability to speak to the recently deceased. Sometimes, he may even glean the final moments of their life—what they 4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/06/29/... The Witness for the Dead is marketed as a standalone sequel to Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, but to tell the truth, it’s more of a separate story rather than a direct continuation. The story follows protagonist Thara Celehar, who holds the titular role of Witness for the Dead, or someone who has the ability to speak to the recently deceased. Sometimes, he may even glean the final moments of their life—what they saw, what they thought, what they felt. You might remember him from the first book as the court Prelate of Ulis who helped Maia find out the truth about the deaths of his father and brothers, but even if haven’t read it, it won’t matter. This novel works perfectly fine as a self-contained story, and it’s something of a murder mystery, which held the greatest appeal for me. As the book begins, we discover that Celehar is now residing in the city of Amalo, far removed from the royal palace setting we were introduced to in The Goblin Emperor. His new post allows him to serve the common people, which he finds rewarding, though as we’ll soon find out, he has not been able to completely escape the world of politics. His latest assignment takes him to the glamorous Vermilion Opera where he must investigate the death of Arveneӓn Shelsin, one of their star performers whose body was pulled from the canal in one of the seedier parts of town. As the elven singer was something of an arrogant and petulant prima donna when she was alive, there is no shortage of people who disliked her, but did any of them despise her enough to kill her? If Celehar is to do his job properly, which means burying Shelsin with the respect she is due, then he needs to know the truth. Unfortunately though, this means he must interrogate everyone close to the victim, and before long Celehar is faced with the unpleasant possibility of having to confront some powerful and dangerous people. My impression is that Katherine Addison has a fondness for writing mysteries, given that her last novel The Angel of the Crows was pretty much Sherlock Holmes fanfic with angels. But for several reasons, I felt The Witness for the Dead is a much better book and a lot more effective. One, the world of The Goblin Emperor is entirely her own and so is the character of Thara Celehar, who is one of the best protagonists I have had the pleasure to come across in ages. Two, I loved being back in the Elflands, despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that the setting is so different from the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun exploring the glitz and glamor of the royal court with Maia, but personally I found the bustling city of Amalo to be much more interesting. Certainly, we got to meet a greater diversity of characters and experience a more varied slice of life in this world than we got from the palace. But ultimately—and I feel it’s worth reiterating again and again—it was really Celehar who stole the show. I liked that he was a unique character, with endless layers to his personality and thought process, making him a rather unconventional detective. The religious piety and respect for rituals that he showed in the first book are emphasized here, as on the whole the common people of Amalo are more devout than the nobility at Court, and so our protagonist finds himself in his element. Still, he is painfully formal in all his interactions, but also likes to speak frankly. While on the surface, this combination of traits might not make him seem very appealing, I have to say it had the effect of endearing him to me even more. It’s also important to note that he’s not just being overly polite for the sake of etiquette, but because he relies on some of that formality as a shield in uncomfortable social situations. This somehow made him come across as more authentic to me, a narrator I could easily sympathize with, and I liked how Addison was able to subtly convey all that about his personality through just his conversations and actions. And obviously, I can never resist a fantasy mystery. I thought the storyline was well done here, with the author utilizing a number of plot devices and genre elements to great effect. As Celehar conducts his investigation, clues are dropped aplenty, with seemingly unrelated side arcs ending up playing a role later on. Sure, the novel didn’t have the same glowing softness and aura of opulence that The Goblin Emperor had, but to me, that’s a good thing. To be honest, I much preferred the murder mystery feel to the courtly drama and political intrigue, and admittedly my mood at the time was probably better suited for the more down-to-earth vibes of The Witness for the Dead. As such, this book gets my recommendation for readers with a penchant for mystery fantasy fiction, especially if you enjoy character-focused stories. Thara Celehar is an unforgettable protagonist whose incredible characterization and unique voice will stay with me for a long time. I also wouldn’t be too concerned with reading the series books in order. Since The Witness for the Dead reads more like a spin-off than a true sequel, not having the first book under your belt isn’t going to disadvantage you at all, not to mention that as much as I enjoyed The Goblin Emperor, I actually think this book was better.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nina ✳The Surgebinder ✳

    OMG, PRAISE THE LORD, THERE'S A SEQUEL. I don't know whether to scream my lungs out or roll on the floor out of happiness, I think I'm going to cry... OMG, PRAISE THE LORD, THERE'S A SEQUEL. I don't know whether to scream my lungs out or roll on the floor out of happiness, I think I'm going to cry...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ola G

    6.5/10 stars My full review can be found on my blog. [...] I’ve read The Goblin Emperor ages ago and while I enjoyed it, I also had a few choice words to say about the things that I felt didn’t work so well. Ah, those were the days when my tongue was very sharp indeed and my tolerance much lower than it is today 😉 Having read Addison’s The Angel of the Crows more recently (and finding that book so bad that I only wrote a short GR review for it) I approached The Witness for the Dead with certain tre 6.5/10 stars My full review can be found on my blog. [...] I’ve read The Goblin Emperor ages ago and while I enjoyed it, I also had a few choice words to say about the things that I felt didn’t work so well. Ah, those were the days when my tongue was very sharp indeed and my tolerance much lower than it is today 😉 Having read Addison’s The Angel of the Crows more recently (and finding that book so bad that I only wrote a short GR review for it) I approached The Witness for the Dead with certain trepidation. I needn’t have worried, however. If jumping straight into the highly regulated and intricate world of elves’ and goblins’ steam-powered fin de siecle is what you were waiting for, The Witness for the Dead delivers it in spades. Let’s start with the matter of sequels. The Witness for the Dead can be called a “sort of” sequel to The Goblin Emperor, in that it follows a minor character from the first book and that it takes place after the events of The Goblin Emperor (which have some, albeit slight, pertinence to the events of The Witness for the Dead). It could be read as a standalone, though I suspect the pleasure of discovering the small references to the book #1 is an important aspect of the book #2’s draw. All in all, I’d recommend reading The Goblin Emperor first, bearing in mind that the links between the two books are rather weak. Maia comes up only in dialogue, twice or thrice, and that’s it; other characters from the first book are either mentioned only in passing or not at all. Other, except for Thara Celehar, the eponymous Witness for the Dead and the Prelate of Ulis, who is the main protagonist of the new novel. Celehar is a skillfully created, complex character: wounded and insecure, plagued by low self-esteem and a heavy burden of responsibility, honest and full of integrity and compassion, vulnerable yet persevering. He can also be stubborn to a fault, unable to understand social cues, unbending and brusque in his social interactions, and quite obsessive in his adherence to social rules and norms, be they related to the forms of speech, maps, or even proper clothing. In all, he constitutes a rare, accurate and valuable portrayal of an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) personality, for which Addison deserves all the praise she can get: she made Celehar relatable and comprehensible, deserving of our empathy and friendship and support, and she did it without glossing over any of Celehar’s interpersonal, relational difficulties or problems of social maladjustment, noticeable especially within such highly regulated society as the one from The Goblin Emperor’s world. Celehar is the brightest star of the book, no doubt. As a character study, and a worldbuilding study, The Witness for the Dead works really well. Here, the glittering world of the court is eschewed for the provincial and, in consequence, more down-to-earth world of Amalo – with all its petty conflicts and dreams, dirty factories, communal cemeteries, boarding houses, city anonymity, and local but no less vicious bids for power. The problems might be low-key, not related to the well-being of emperors and countries, but they are no less important for being small: we have a serial killer on the loose; last will fraud and scandals; slander; ghouls roaming freely and eating people in rather ghastly ways; a bloody factory accident; and a murder mystery involving opera singers. The tone of this book is more somber than The Goblin Emperor, which is also an improvement, at least for me – the overflowing, cloying sweetness of the first novel is drastically limited here, both by the idiosyncrasies of the different narrator and by the vastly different topics. It’s evident that The Angel of the Crows, a Sherlock Holmes fantasy fanfic Addison published last year, influenced the plot of The Witness for the Dead: it has a similar, fragmented structure, built around mystery cases which may or may not be related, lending the book an episodic, rambling feel. The plot is far from tight; it reads more like a newspaper serial than a novel, and this unfortunately results in lowering the stakes of the whole arc quite a lot. The ending seems rushed and unfinished, and while I expect the intent was to create a feeling of opening possibilities, what I actually experienced was a very sudden THE END where a whole lot of stuff still remained unresolved. That said, I enjoyed this book quite a lot, mostly due to Thara Celehar’s unique personality. His adventures are not all equally credible, and Addison still can’t write decent action scenes in a non-yawn-inducing way, but I found Celehar realistic, believable, and very likeable in all his vulnerability, his inability to fit in, his need for a meaningful human (well, not really, but writing elven/goblin/sentient being would take too much space, as you can see ;)) contact, his integrity, and his unwavering devotion to his duties. All in all, The Witness for the Dead is an enjoyable return to the world of The Goblin Emperor. Less sweet and sentimental than its predecessor, it firmly retains the feel-good vibes of the previous book, making them more realistic when viewed through the lens of the struggles of the wonderfully imperfect protagonist, Thara Celehar. I have received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Para (wanderer)

    ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review. It’s always difficult when one of your most anticipated releases of the year turns out to be a complete disappointment. I had a little warning, fellow fans of The Goblin Emperor disappointed, my experience with The Angel of the Crows tempering my expectations, I knew it was not a true sequel and different…but I did expect a certain degree of craft that just wasn’t there in the end. The story follows Thara Celehar, a witness fo ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review. It’s always difficult when one of your most anticipated releases of the year turns out to be a complete disappointment. I had a little warning, fellow fans of The Goblin Emperor disappointed, my experience with The Angel of the Crows tempering my expectations, I knew it was not a true sequel and different…but I did expect a certain degree of craft that just wasn’t there in the end. The story follows Thara Celehar, a witness for the dead and a minor character from The Goblin Emperor as he goes around his job, investigating the causes of death of various inhabitants of Amalo and helping resolve their disputes. In particular, the cases he focuses on here are the murder of an opera singer (mostly this), an inheritance dispute, and a woman who died in mysterious circumstances shortly after her marriage. The biggest issue with the book is the characterisation. Not only do the characters lack the charm that The Goblin Emperor had, Celehar has no personality at all. He’s dutiful and restrained – and that’s it. And he undergoes no growth, no change whatsoever. The side characters are entirely forgettable. The only semi-interesting one is Arveneän, the murdered and quite unsympathetic opera singer, but well…she’s dead. We only ever see her through other characters’ eyes. The writing, this time in first person, is also dull and lifeless. I went there, I talked to that person, then I went to that place, I had some tea, and so on. The plot is also very meandering, with a lot of random subplots and a weak main thread (which might have better worked as a novella?), which would be entirely fine if everything else was in order. But combined with the character issues, it made the book awfully tedious to read. It didn’t take long until I started skimming. I continued for one reason and one reason only: I’m a complete slut for mysteries. No matter how bad, I need to know the answer. So I skimmed on. And yes, unsurprisingly, the resolution to the main mystery was largely unsatisfying and lackluster. I doubt that “well okay then” was the intended reaction. To use a metaphor, this book the equivalent of ordering a luxurious comforting latte and discovering you got served cold espresso instead. It’s not that the order got changed and doesn’t match my expectations per se. If I got a nice mocha or a capuccino I would still happily take it and not complain at all. But while cold espresso is coffee and drinkable and does the trick of waking you up, it just doesn’t compare. Enjoyment: 2/5 Execution: 2/5 Recommended to: …honestly, this one is hard to recommend Not recommended to: character-focused readers More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Allison Hurd

    I truly loved the meandering little tale of the Goblin Emperor. This was strange because it was not at all what I expected but also follows the spirit fairly well. I don't think it will wear the same spot into my heart, but I'm glad to have read it. CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)[ serial killers, religion, suicide, loss of a loved one, domestic violence, body horror (hide spoiler)] Things to love: -Earnestness. Once again the main character and his confidants are just...good people. You just want I truly loved the meandering little tale of the Goblin Emperor. This was strange because it was not at all what I expected but also follows the spirit fairly well. I don't think it will wear the same spot into my heart, but I'm glad to have read it. CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)[ serial killers, religion, suicide, loss of a loved one, domestic violence, body horror (hide spoiler)] Things to love: -Earnestness. Once again the main character and his confidants are just...good people. You just want them to have good lives and someone who loves them. -Low/high stakes. Like with the first book, this one has the same commingled sense of dire tragedy and gentle coziness. -Elven culture. So much worldbuilding in the details. This is a real strength in this series. Things I didn't love: -Murder mystery. I didn't expect this long awaited sequel to be an Elven urban fantasy? But it did have A LOT of mysteries, so at least it was a bit more convoluted than your average mystery novel. -Handwavium. I don't remember this much magic being in the first book? And for someone who is so good at creating complex histories for fictional worlds, the magic seemed surprisingly flat. -He is Othala Celehar, Witness for the Dead. Do a shot for every time this is said, but NOT REALLY because you will die. -A bit abrupt. It was sort of odd, because the way this ends makes it feel slice-of-life-y which I like, but it also makes it feel incomplete, which I don't like. I am ambivalent, as was this ending. In sum, I think it was a delightful, low-stress way to spend a day, and I'm glad to have read it, but I had to just be okay with this NOT being Goblin Emperor.

  12. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . The first book of this series the goblin emperor is one of me favourite comfort reads.  This be a standalone book set in the same world so ye don't have to read them in order but I do recommend it. This novel does not have the same feel of scope or political intrigue as its predecessor.  What is does still have is a character ye love to root for and find comfort Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . The first book of this series the goblin emperor is one of me favourite comfort reads.  This be a standalone book set in the same world so ye don't have to read them in order but I do recommend it. This novel does not have the same feel of scope or political intrigue as its predecessor.  What is does still have is a character ye love to root for and find comfort in.  Celehar is not a ruler but a dutiful man whose position, a witness for the dead, leaves him on the fringes of society.  That fact that he can speak to the dead, unlike the rest of his calling, leaves him even more isolated. I loved Celehar.  Ye follow him in his daily tasks and watch him find answers about the dead.  How he solves mysteries is not glamourous or even thrilling.  But it his care for those families he helps and his reverence for the dead that makes him so loveable. The plot is leisurely, the worldbuilding continues to be excellent, and I loved every minute.  I certainly would read more books set in this world, however i will continue to reread these books and enjoy them.  Arrr! So lastly . . . Thank you Macmillian/Tor-Forge!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The Witness for the Dead is to The Goblin Emperor what Cranford is to Great Expectations. Addison's first book in this world was a coming-of-age with big players and big stakes. Her second is scaled down considerably: it's set in a smaller city far away from the capital; the events, even the murders and scandals and politicking, are local in scale and somewhat picaresque in structure. The protagonist is middle-aged, melancholic prelate Thara Celehar, whose title and duty are the same: witness fo The Witness for the Dead is to The Goblin Emperor what Cranford is to Great Expectations. Addison's first book in this world was a coming-of-age with big players and big stakes. Her second is scaled down considerably: it's set in a smaller city far away from the capital; the events, even the murders and scandals and politicking, are local in scale and somewhat picaresque in structure. The protagonist is middle-aged, melancholic prelate Thara Celehar, whose title and duty are the same: witness for the dead. And the dead are no quieter in the town of Amalo than they were in the capital. A beautiful young woman turns up dead in the canal; her last memories are of being pushed in the water and getting hit in the head. Another young woman, whose brother claims she was killed by her husband, lies somewhere in a pauper's graveyard. There are contentious (and perhaps faked) wills, ghouls risen from bodies buried without a headstone, and treacherous local politics. Thara is determined to do his duty by them all. The Witness for the Dead is probably more mystery than it is fantasy, but its humble, duty-bound protagonist couldn't be further from Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. Thara is driven by his tremendous sense of responsibility for the dead (and, as it turns out later, his own ghosts), regardless of their status or conduct in life. He runs counter to every morally ambiguous grim-dark fantasy hero, and I like him all the better for his kindness toward stray cats, his pained resignation when presented with a fashionable yellow coat after ruining his black one (fighting ghouls is messy work), and his bone-deep compassion and sense of fairness. However, whereas the development of Maia's character fueled a lot of the tension in The Goblin Emperor, Thara's character is essentially set, so there's that much less suspense. My favorite thing about The Witness for the Dead is probably just being in Katherine Addison's world again, daunting names and politics and all. Amalo is a lovingly and immersively described city, and Thara travels all over it in his (somewhat leisurely) pursuit of answers for his dead, stopping by tea houses and pawn shops, cemeteries and opera houses, and acquainting himself with its different neighborhoods and subcultures. Addison's world feels cohesive and enveloping, and there's more diversity in both class and culture here than there was in The Goblin Emperor. I didn't adore this one the way I did its predecessor; I felt a much milder enjoyment that was compounded by a lack of emotional payoff at the end. But even less-than-awesome Katherine Addison is pretty good, and well worth the time and money spent upon it. Thanks to Allie for the buddy read and discussion!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    I have wanted more of this world ever since the very second I finished the last sentence of The Goblin Emperor. This book follows a very different class of people, in a completely different city, and we get to see how this one part of the elvish empire operates at ground level. Which is very cool! I loved how grounded this book felt in details like the second hand clothes economy and the types of cheap food available at tea houses. Like The Goblin Emperor, this book touches on tensions between I have wanted more of this world ever since the very second I finished the last sentence of The Goblin Emperor. This book follows a very different class of people, in a completely different city, and we get to see how this one part of the elvish empire operates at ground level. Which is very cool! I loved how grounded this book felt in details like the second hand clothes economy and the types of cheap food available at tea houses. Like The Goblin Emperor, this book touches on tensions between different traditions, and how the rising powers of industry and merchants bring both positives (for instance, Chonhadrin is able to make a good wage without depending on family or marriage) and negatives (airship factories have a tendency to explode). And like The Goblin Emperor, the main character is kind, conscientious, and prone to thinking poorly of himself. When we first met him, Thara Celehar was a Witness for the Dead (basically priests responsible for helping people die peacefully and speaking for the interests of the dead) stripped of his prelacy after an affair with a married man. The emperor tasked Celehar with speaking for those killed in an airship crash, and in so doing Celehar uncovered a nascent workers' rebellion. After this success, Celehar asked to leave the imperial court and was given a position in a new city. Here Celehar solves several murders, uncovers a forged will, and destroys a ghoul. It sounds more exciting than it is in the narrative--Celehar goes about it like it's just his regular business. In another character I'd probably like that, but Celehar annoyed me in The Goblin Emperor and frankly still does here. He's got reason to grieve, but he's so willing to martyr himself endlessly, so shocked every time someone does or says something nice (which they actually do very frequently; lots of people like and appreciate him), and so unwilling to defend himself, and it just rubbed me the wrong way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lou Jacobs

    An immersive detective novel utilizing the fantasy motif, rivaling the best Sherlock Holmes adventure. The main protagonist is Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. At age thirteen he was ushered into this religious sect, and trained as a novitiate. He has mastered his calling … by touching the corpse of the newly deceased he can “talk” with them and actually at times is dragged into their memories at death. At times his duties supply identity and cause of death … accident An immersive detective novel utilizing the fantasy motif, rivaling the best Sherlock Holmes adventure. The main protagonist is Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. At age thirteen he was ushered into this religious sect, and trained as a novitiate. He has mastered his calling … by touching the corpse of the newly deceased he can “talk” with them and actually at times is dragged into their memories at death. At times his duties supply identity and cause of death … accidental or the all to often murder. Celehar was a minor character in the beloved and highly acclaimed and award winning novel: The Goblin Emperor. This tale is actually a stand-alone occurring in the same universe as the preceding novel. The same lush world building is again on display in this gem. Utilizing the same byzantine type of political and court intrigue in the face of racial and social tension. The inhabitants of this world are the elven ,held in higher esteem than the goblin folk, and there are those of mixed heritage. Celehar has been appointed a position of Witness for the Dead in the city of Amalo, far from the court, and expected to oversee the entire city. His presence stirs up an inordinate amount of animosity and jealousy in the local politicians. He is a kind, decent and unassuming man, who only wishes to find the truth, which frequently is inconvenient and sometimes has disastrous results. His skills in addition to finding identity, frequently aid in resolving disputes, and finding the killers of the murdered. Sara Monette under the pseudonym of Katherine Addision weaves a convoluted and evocative narrative with a multitude of unexpected reveals as our intrepid detective investigates and interrogates with perceptive and deductive skills that astound. The pacing is propulsive leading to a rapid page-turner. This character driven drama revolves around solution of three mysteries. Initially he is petitioned by the brother in the unexplained death of his pregnant sister. He is concerned and suspects she was murdered by her husband. Inshiran was a lifelong and content spinster and an avid birdwatcher (often described “as dull as a door knob”). She met Crois Avelonaran, quit her job , eloped, and was pregnant in 6 months and dead in 9 months. He was petitioned to find her grave and “speak with her” In the second mystery he was petitioned to find the identity and cause of death when a young elven woman, no more than thirty, is pulled from the canal. She appeared to be a lady of means, based upon appearances and clothes. Upon touching her forehead he immediately learned that she was bludgeoned and pushed into the canal. Her identity and causation of murder unknown ( but would result in an intricate and thorough investigation by Celehar). And, lastly he was requested to aid in the dispute of who the rightful heir would be, in a upper class family, when two wills appear. He is able to discern this by reconnoitering with the deceased ashes. Which unfortunately will lead to substantial problems for Celehar. The least of those, being called upon to “quiet” a ghoul, who is feating on the alive as well dead. Addison expertly explores multiple themes, such as hypocrisy, revenge, retaliation. race and social status with her amazingly intricate world building and characterization skills. Intrigue and treachery percolate throughout the narrative. Again, it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy and devour this captivating tale. Monette / Addison are a welcome addition to my author must read list. Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan- Tor / Forge for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lou Jacobs

    An immersive detective novel utilizing the fantasy motif, rivaling the best Sherlock Holmes adventure. The main protagonist is Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. At age thirteen he was ushered into this religious sect, and trained as a novitiate. He has mastered his calling … by touching the corpse of the newly deceased he can “talk” with them and actually at times is dragged into their memories at death. At times his duties supply identity and cause of death … accident An immersive detective novel utilizing the fantasy motif, rivaling the best Sherlock Holmes adventure. The main protagonist is Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. At age thirteen he was ushered into this religious sect, and trained as a novitiate. He has mastered his calling … by touching the corpse of the newly deceased he can “talk” with them and actually at times is dragged into their memories at death. At times his duties supply identity and cause of death … accidental or the all to often murder. Celehar was a minor character in the beloved and highly acclaimed and award winning novel: The Goblin Emperor. This tale is actually a stand-alone occurring in the same universe as the preceding novel. The same lush world building is again on display in this gem. Utilizing the same byzantine type of political and court intrigue in the face of racial and social tension. The inhabitants of this world are the elven ,held in higher esteem than the goblin folk, and there are those of mixed heritage. Celehar has been appointed a position of Witness for the Dead in the city of Amalo, far from the court, and expected to oversee the entire city. His presence stirs up an inordinate amount of animosity and jealousy in the local politicians. He is a kind, decent and unassuming man, who only wishes to find the truth, which frequently is inconvenient and sometimes has disastrous results. His skills in addition to finding identity, frequently aid in resolving disputes, and finding the killers of the murdered. Sara Monette under the pseudonym of Katherine Addision weaves a convoluted and evocative narrative with a multitude of unexpected reveals as our intrepid detective investigates and interrogates with perceptive and deductive skills that astound. The pacing is propulsive leading to a rapid page-turner. This character driven drama revolves around solution of three mysteries. Initially he is petitioned by the brother in the unexplained death of his pregnant sister. He is concerned and suspects she was murdered by her husband. Inshiran was a lifelong and content spinster and an avid birdwatcher (often described “as dull as a door knob”). She met Crois Avelonaran, quit her job , eloped, and was pregnant in 6 months and dead in 9 months. He was petitioned to find her grave and “speak with her” In the second mystery he was petitioned to find the identity and cause of death when a young elven woman, no more than thirty, is pulled from the canal. She appeared to be a lady of means, based upon appearances and clothes. Upon touching her forehead he immediately learned that she was bludgeoned and pushed into the canal. Her identity and causation of murder unknown ( but would result in an intricate and thorough investigation by Celehar). And, lastly he was requested to aid in the dispute of who the rightful heir would be, in a upper class family, when two wills appear. He is able to discern this by reconnoitering with the deceased ashes. Which unfortunately will lead to substantial problems for Celehar. The least of those, being called upon to “quiet” a ghoul, who is feating on the alive as well dead. Addison expertly explores multiple themes, such as hypocrisy, revenge, retaliation. race and social status with her amazingly intricate world building and characterization skills. Intrigue and treachery percolate throughout the narrative. Again, it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy and devour this captivating tale. Monette / Addison are a welcome addition to my author must read list. Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan- Tor / Forge for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    This and more reviews at superstardrifter.com!~ This is the story of Thara Celehar, who is a Witness for the Dead. He has the ability to communicate, somewhat, with the recently dead. It helps him to do things like solve murders and bring grieving people closure, and settle wills and the like. After the events that happened to him in The Goblin Emperor, Celehar now lives in Amalo, a city in the provinces, away from court life. He gets himself involved in a will dispute and a murder investigation, This and more reviews at superstardrifter.com!~ This is the story of Thara Celehar, who is a Witness for the Dead. He has the ability to communicate, somewhat, with the recently dead. It helps him to do things like solve murders and bring grieving people closure, and settle wills and the like. After the events that happened to him in The Goblin Emperor, Celehar now lives in Amalo, a city in the provinces, away from court life. He gets himself involved in a will dispute and a murder investigation, and finds an adventure or two along the way. I wanted to love this book as much as I loved The Goblin Emperor, but alas I did not. Celehar is an interesting character and I didn’t dislike his story. The writing is good, but this one lacks the near overabundance of honorifics and manners that Goblin Emperor had, because it takes place in a different part of the world where those things don’t matter as much. But, all the same, I found myself missing them. It seemed to lack a lot of the unique charm that all of the flowery language and court shenanigans gave the book before it. I think that it does this one a disservice to market this one as a sequel, even a ‘standalone sequel’ because it gives the expectation that events that happened in Goblin Emperor will be touched upon, or will matter at all. The only thing that makes this a sequel is that it takes place in the same world, after the events of Goblin Emperor, and follows a minor character from it. That’s it. It doesn’t really reference anything that happened in any appreciable way. It’s a character who happened to be in Goblin Emperor doing things in an entirely different part of the world for reasons that have little to nothing to do with anything that happened in Maia’s story. The people who are super excited to read this as a sequel to Goblin Emperor are likely going to be disappointed in it as a sequel to Goblin Emperor. But, with that all said, if you disassociate this book from Goblin Emperor, forget the word ‘sequel’, forget Maia and all the charm and pomp and circumstance that that book gave you, this is an enjoyable read. It works as a murder mystery. It’s got a slow pace and it often feels like it’s not quite sure what it wants to do, but I still had a good time with it. It meanders between opera murder to ghoul attacks to family estate argument shenanigans and camping out on a hill full of ghosts, and back again… but the adventures it took me on were fun to read about and I did end up liking Celehar as a character in his own world, rather than as a character carried over from an entirely different book that I really enjoyed for entirely different reasons. This book has a charm all it’s own, but it’s not the same charm that you may expect. All told, this was a solid read, but it isn’t a sequel, and the less you think of it as a sequel, the more you’ll be likely enjoy it. Thanks to the author, as well as Tor via NetGalley for the review copy!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    Loved the first book. Read it twice. Gonna try to snag an early copy of this one before it comes out. * * * * * To be published by Tor (Macmillan)... which means I hope my public library system will buy it because that's the only way I'll get to read this book. ;) ;) ;) Loved the first book. Read it twice. Gonna try to snag an early copy of this one before it comes out. * * * * * To be published by Tor (Macmillan)... which means I hope my public library system will buy it because that's the only way I'll get to read this book. ;) ;) ;)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    I was stoked to get back into The Goblin Emperor world, as the first book was a huge surprise and I love mysteries- however, I don't think the big epic prose worked for me in this one like it did in the last one. Maybe it was the lack of Maia for me to always be rooting for. I hope other folks end up enjoying this more! I was stoked to get back into The Goblin Emperor world, as the first book was a huge surprise and I love mysteries- however, I don't think the big epic prose worked for me in this one like it did in the last one. Maybe it was the lack of Maia for me to always be rooting for. I hope other folks end up enjoying this more!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really wanted to like this one, because I loved the first book. However, I didn't care at all about this character. He had none of the charm and vulnerability of Maia. Had to force myself to finish this one. I really wanted to like this one, because I loved the first book. However, I didn't care at all about this character. He had none of the charm and vulnerability of Maia. Had to force myself to finish this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Crane

    I was deeply disappointed by this book. I didn't like the fact that there were two separate, unrelated murder-mystery plots running in parallel, and I didn't like the way in which the more focal of those two was resolved very abruptly right at the end of the book by what amounted to co-incidence. I didn't think that Amalo was as interesting a setting as the Untheileneise court, I didn't find the secondary characters as compelling as those in The Goblin Emperor and I didn't find Celehar to be as we I was deeply disappointed by this book. I didn't like the fact that there were two separate, unrelated murder-mystery plots running in parallel, and I didn't like the way in which the more focal of those two was resolved very abruptly right at the end of the book by what amounted to co-incidence. I didn't think that Amalo was as interesting a setting as the Untheileneise court, I didn't find the secondary characters as compelling as those in The Goblin Emperor and I didn't find Celehar to be as well-developed or as engaging as a POV character as Maia was. I won't say it was a bad book, but where The Goblin Emperor had a strong theme running throughout, which was elegantly combined with Maia's personal growth, The Witness for the Dead felt hesitant and purposeless.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christine Sandquist

    This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. I went into The Witness for the Dead with a full heart and high hopes. I reread The Goblin Emperor before diving in, and I was primed for the continuation of those warm, optimistic feelings. Reader, I desperately wanted this book to be The Goblin Emperor 2. I wanted to feel that same magic, rooting for an underdog character doing their best in a strange, mysterious, and often opaque new world. Sadly, it did not capture that sam This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. I went into The Witness for the Dead with a full heart and high hopes. I reread The Goblin Emperor before diving in, and I was primed for the continuation of those warm, optimistic feelings. Reader, I desperately wanted this book to be The Goblin Emperor 2. I wanted to feel that same magic, rooting for an underdog character doing their best in a strange, mysterious, and often opaque new world. Sadly, it did not capture that same spirit, though it did seem to try. It seemed to take the things I’d loved in The Goblin Emperor and watered them down, replacing the intensely character-focused narrative with a plot-focused one. The archaic and dense courtly language that gave The Goblin Emperor its charm and delightful sense of otherness was also much reduced. The emotional payoff felt lacking. Often, it felt like showing trauma on-page was used as a substitute for characterization or growth. The Witness for the Dead follows Thara Celehar, the Witness Maia brought on in the first book to investigate the late emperor’s assassination. In his new role with the church, he finds himself called upon to use his ability to hear the memories of the recently dead to resolve contract disputes, investigate murders, and more. The favor of the Emperor has proven insufficient to lift him above petty administrative squabbles, and the spector of his own queerness as a gay man that continues to haunt him. Ultimately, the plot revolves around two primary murder mysteries: an opera singer found dead in the river, and a woman who was taken from her family and murdered by the husband she eloped with. These two threads are used to compare and contrast the difference between a crime committed by someone who gave in to a monstrous impulse rather than someone who is, fundamentally, a monster. This seemed to be an attempt to provide Thara with closure for a past murder he Witnessed, wherein he had to sentence his own lover to death. Unfortunately, this was only touched on lightly – and it was “told” rather than “shown.” There wasn’t much actual on page character growth related to this outside a single conversation with another priest. Contrasting this with The Goblin Emperor, where we see Maia meaningfully dealing with his past as he handles Setheris and the trauma of an abusive upbringing, I found it to be lacking. Even without that direct comparison, it just didn’t really hit me emotionally. The murder plots themselves were reasonably engaging, and I think that someone primarily interested in murder mysteries would enjoy them. I found the ending to be somewhat contrived, but the journey to reach it was engaging. During the investigations, it is emphasized several times how traumatizing hearing the memories of the dead can be for Thara. He relives the last moments of the dead – and that includes their pain and suffering. Witnesses for the Dead often burn out young. When the trauma becomes too much, their abilities shut down and fail them. While Thara is frequently shown to suffer from this on page, it is never really addressed – how does Thara process that trauma? The answer, apparently, is that he simply doesn’t. He begins to open up a little by the end of the novel, implying that he will go on to build connections that provide him with stability, but without seeing how those connections change him long term…. Well, I found it unsatisfying. It felt like Thara was still on a journey to finding his place when the novel ended rather than having found it. In the same vein, Thara’s queerness – and the broader societal attitudes towards queerness – are mentioned but not meaningfully addressed. We see a young woman blackmailed because someone caught her with another woman. Thara himself begins to have romantic feelings towards another man. While Thara’s budding relationship ends on a hopeful note, it is not a definitive note. It implies acceptance of his own identity and his past, but it’s such a surface level examination of it that I had trouble becoming invested. There was no follow up exploration of what those feelings meant. Where Maia went from a blushing virgin to having his betrothed pledge to gut his enemies, Thara went from a sad and traumatized bachelor to…. A sad and traumatized bachelor who was okay with being friends for now with another gay man? Whether or not they would get together was ambiguous. It reminded me of the queerness in The Angel of the Crows, which was similarly dissatisfying. There are hints and nudges when it comes to queerness and relationships, but both books fail to transform it into a substantial theme. Honestly, the entire book felt a bit like what you’d get if you crossed The Angel of the Crows with The Goblin Emperor. It has elements of both, and feels unfocused for it. Is this a character driven novel like The Goblin Emperor? Or is this meant to be a pure murder mystery? It’s hard to tell, but at the end of the day… I regret to say that fans of The Goblin Emperor are unlikely to experience the same magic they felt in the first book. This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received a an early copy of this book via NetGalley. The Witness for the Dead is a stand-alone sequel to The Goblin Emperor. I read that book years ago but enjoyed it immensely for its cozy vibe and unique worldbuilding, but the naming conventions in the world left me endlessly addled about who was who. Keeping track of names is never my strong point, and add in Russian-style name variations and formalities, and I am a goner. Witness is a profoundly different book. It largely avoids court polit I received a an early copy of this book via NetGalley. The Witness for the Dead is a stand-alone sequel to The Goblin Emperor. I read that book years ago but enjoyed it immensely for its cozy vibe and unique worldbuilding, but the naming conventions in the world left me endlessly addled about who was who. Keeping track of names is never my strong point, and add in Russian-style name variations and formalities, and I am a goner. Witness is a profoundly different book. It largely avoids court politics, and is instead a fantasy book that is a fairly straightforward murder-mystery novel. Only in this situation, Celehar is a detective who can speak with the recently-dead to find out what they wanted to name as heir, or if the committed some crime as they died, or if they were in fact murdered. The concept is fantastically original. The book eloquently weaves together several of Celehar's ongoing cases. Just as with Goblin Emperor, there is a cozy vibe, a cast that consists of (mostly) helpful goblins and elves, and the same frustrating downside: it was impossible for me to track who was who. I was helped in that Addison is a brilliant writer, and most always provided contextual clues so that within a page or so I would realize, 'oh yeah, that guy again.' Even so, with the way the plots were twined, characters constantly came and went, and I often felt adrift. If not for that problem, this would have been a five-star read for me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melindam

    It has a cover now!! Can't wait for this book to be published!! I loved book #1, The Goblin Emperor & have high hopes of this one as well. It has a cover now!! Can't wait for this book to be published!! I loved book #1, The Goblin Emperor & have high hopes of this one as well.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This was an enjoyable, pleasant book to read (especially considering it’s a murder mystery). It’s a return to the world of The Goblin Emperor (Maia doesn’t appear, but is mentioned), starring a minor character from The Goblin Emperor, and taking place far from the machinations and intrigues of the Imperial palace. It had the feel of a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, hitting that same kind of “the world isn’t necessarily great but as long as good people are doing their best it’ll be ok” vibe. (Havi This was an enjoyable, pleasant book to read (especially considering it’s a murder mystery). It’s a return to the world of The Goblin Emperor (Maia doesn’t appear, but is mentioned), starring a minor character from The Goblin Emperor, and taking place far from the machinations and intrigues of the Imperial palace. It had the feel of a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, hitting that same kind of “the world isn’t necessarily great but as long as good people are doing their best it’ll be ok” vibe. (Having just read a Becky Chambers book, it’s that kind of feeling.) What it doesn’t quite have is that something (whatever it was) that made The Goblin Emperor such a perfect little book, though I’m happy to say it’s got at least something of it. The protagonist of this book is Thara Celehar, the Witness for the Dead who was able to help find out who had killed Maia’s father and half-brothers. He has since left the Imperial palace and moved to a distant city, where his calling leads to him serving as a Witness for an unknown Elven woman who had been murdered and dumped in the river. He is able to glimpse her last moments, and it’s his responsibility to find out what happened to her. I called this a murder mystery, and it is one, but it’s not really about the murder. This is about Thara as a person. The central mystery is the vehicle by which we learn about him. By the end of the story, I found I wasn’t nearly as interested to learn who the killer was as I was to learn how Thara felt about it. Along the way he deals with some other cases of varying degrees of importance to both Thara and the reader. And this is where I think the book really does measure up in some degree to *The Goblin Emperor*. A number of those stories just … don’t really go anywhere. There’s not really a resolution to them. In some cases I don’t think I could tell you what the point of them was. But I didn’t mind, because they were each a vehicle to let us see more of our protagonist. The unifying thing in all these events is that we get to see more and more of how other people see our protagonist, though we’re doing so through Thara’s eyes. I’m sorry for how confusing that sentence ended up being, but it’s the best I can do. I will mention that the names are every bit as confusing in this book as in The Goblin Emperor. In the end (my feelings on this book have settled by the act of writing this review), I’d say that though The Witness for the Dead isn’t as good as The Goblin Emperor, it’s still a worthy sequel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fadi Antwan

    The ending felt a little abrupt, and I would have so liked for Thara's character to be more developed, but again, this world is so charming I could read about it for days on end and never get bored. I hope there will be more sequels in the future, because I would definitely pick them up. The ending felt a little abrupt, and I would have so liked for Thara's character to be more developed, but again, this world is so charming I could read about it for days on end and never get bored. I hope there will be more sequels in the future, because I would definitely pick them up.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Siavahda

    HIGHLIGHTS ~gravestones are IMPORTANT ~so much opera ~even more tea ~ghosts ~a very unsuitable yellow coat The first, absolutely most important thing you need to know about this book is: it is not The Goblin Emperor. I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by Witness just because they’re going to open it up expecting – or at least hoping for – an experience like the one they had with Emperor. And they’re not going to get one. If you decide to pick up Witness For the Dead, pretend that you’v HIGHLIGHTS ~gravestones are IMPORTANT ~so much opera ~even more tea ~ghosts ~a very unsuitable yellow coat The first, absolutely most important thing you need to know about this book is: it is not The Goblin Emperor. I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by Witness just because they’re going to open it up expecting – or at least hoping for – an experience like the one they had with Emperor. And they’re not going to get one. If you decide to pick up Witness For the Dead, pretend that you’ve never read Goblin Emperor. Pretend you’ve never even heard of it. The more you separate the two books in your mind – the more clearly you see Witness for what it is, and not what you want it to be – the higher your chances are of enjoying the book. Do not go into Witness expecting that warm optimistic glow Emperor left you with. Do not expect court politics and princes and treason and an imperial marriage. Do not expect a main character much like Maia, whose lack of education about the court and whose determination to be good made us all fall in love with him. Pretend you’ve never even heard of The Goblin Emperor. So: Witness for the Dead is, in essence, a murder-mystery. (It is also written in first-person and has no chapters, only scene breaks. Even structurally it’s vastly different from Emperor.) Celehar, a minor but important character from Emperor, has the ability to ‘ask’ the dead very basic questions – and get answers – if he can touch a corpse that isn’t too old. This makes him ideal, obviously, for investigating suspicious deaths, and also for a number of other more mundane tasks, like determining which of the conflicting versions of a person’s will is the real one. Pretty much immediately as the book opens, he is tasked with both: investigating the death of an opera singer, which his powers confirm was definitely a murder, and sorting out a confusion of wills for a respectable, fairly well-off family. Over the course of the novel, he also undergoes religious trials, pilgrimages, visits the opera, officiates funerals, looks into another, older death to try and figure out if something’s not right about it, and ‘puts down’ ghouls, a kind of monster that come about if graves aren’t taken care of properly. I have a hard time figuring out whether or not I actually liked it. Read the rest at Every Book a Doorway!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    My favorite feel-good book of all time getting a sequel!! I somehow missed the announcement a few months ago, but I legitimately teared up when I saw this was happening today. The bar for my excitement could not be higher.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    COVER COVER COVER. TITLE WE HAVE A TITLE. COVER COVER COVER. TITLE WE HAVE A TITLE.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Merssong

    It’s been a while since I did a book review. By a while I mean years. But when I stopped reviewing, I left my NetGalley profile up and have over the past few years ignored all the invitations I would occasionally get sent. But then… then Tor sent me an invitation I could not ignore: the chance to read Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead early. I am not built for such temptation. The Witness for the Dead is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as Addison’s award winning The Goblin Em It’s been a while since I did a book review. By a while I mean years. But when I stopped reviewing, I left my NetGalley profile up and have over the past few years ignored all the invitations I would occasionally get sent. But then… then Tor sent me an invitation I could not ignore: the chance to read Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead early. I am not built for such temptation. The Witness for the Dead is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as Addison’s award winning The Goblin Emperor. The book’s blurb calls it a sequel, but that is misleading. The story follows Thara Celehar, the intrepid investigator who solved Emperor Varenechibel IV’s murder in The Goblin Emperor and opens several months after Celehar has taken an appointment in Amalo. The city of Amalo is in the midst of generational upheaval as the empire expands and industrialization takes hold. What was once a remote outpost is now a thriving city that takes the resources of the surrounding small communities and builds them into the new wonders of the age. Along with that comes gambling houses, operas, and plenty of intrigue as residents jockey for more wealth and power. In the middle of this sits Thara Celehar, given the post of witness for the dead by the Archprelate at the end of The Goblin Emperor. His is a precarious and lonely position, as both a cleric of Ulis as well as a witness vel ama who must work with members of several organizations while having official membership in none of them. He is at once valued for his efforts in the previous novel and resented for his perceived fame and autonomy, while his work is mostly misunderstood and even unvalued by those around him, and he can count on no one to offer him protection. To solidify his position in the city and maintain the work that gives his life meaning, Celehar must navigate political power plays while solving a pair of murders no one else is much interested in while getting entangled in a messy inheritance scandal. The events of the new story are less straightforward than those in The Goblin Emperor. Like in her previous work, Addison utilizes multiple plot threads that weave together in surprising and unexpected ways. While The Goblin Emperor is a coming-of-age tale, The Witness for the Dead is a mystery in the tradition of Doyle or Christie, with a bit of noir thrown in for good measure, set in a steampunk-esque elven city. However, unlike other tales in these traditions, Addison doesn’t keep the tension consistently ratcheting up throughout the novel. She understands how and when to give readers a break, when to allow the story to breathe and relax enough to explore the world rather than engage in a headlong race to the end like those embraced by mainstream media. These breathers allow Addison to flesh out Celehar in ways that Holms and Poirot never achieved in a single volume. She builds significant thematic content that ties seemingly disparate plot threads together and focuses the novel on Celehar’s character arc rather than on a straightforward narration of events commonly found in many mystery novels. Addison also forgoes tying every plot thread into the main murder mystery, allowing the plot to follow more of a slice-of-life format where not all events are linked in a cause-and-effect chain and not everything is perfectly tied off with a bow at the end. This is a more realistic or naturalistic form of plotting, but one not seen terribly often in either the mystery or fantasy genres. This may leave some readers feeling unfulfilled, while others will appreciate the nuance it provides the overall novel. Addison is hands down one of the best worldbuilders currently writing. Her characters inhabit highly detailed and consistent worlds, with richly described settings that inform character and action rather than bog the story down with extraneous information. There are universes of nuance in how characters interact with each other, and that extends to how they use language in different ways at different times. For those that read for worldbuilding more than anything else, The Witness for the Dead may be one of their best reads this year. However, some readers may struggle with this novel and the amount of worldbuilding layered into it. In The Goblin Emperor, our point of view character is Maia and he needs introductions to the world of the Alcethmeret as he moves there from a life-long exile. This creates an easy and logical path for Addison to feed a great deal of information to the reader; we learn along with Maia. Celehar, in contrast, is a more mature and knowledgeable character, and already familiar with the city of Amalo. He doesn’t need explanations about the world, only about the specifics of the investigations and tasks he must complete within the novel. Addison never hides from the reader information they must have to understand Celehar or the plot, but there are a great deal of worldbuilding details that are either fully unexplained, or only explained via subtext, and not a few of them have unique elvish names. This wonderfully overloaded worldbuilding is why I love Addison as an author and have followed her through the twists and turns of her career, but it may overwhelm others. If The Witness for the Dead has an achilles heel, it’s that many readers will come to it wanting more of The Goblin Emperor, and some of those readers will leave feeling unfulfilled, not because The Witness for the Dead is a bad book or a weaker book – it’s not either of those things – but because it is a fundamentally different book. The plot structure is quieter, more nuanced, and hinges more heavily on theme than the previous novel. The worldbuilding is less accessible, relying on the fact that many readers have already been introduced to this world in the earlier novel. And there is only one character that appears in both: Thara Celehar. In The Witness for the Dead, Maia is the Emperor who lives in the capital. Few in Amalo have seen him, and fewer yet have met him or will ever expect to meet him. He is a distant and unknowable figure in the lives of the characters who inhabit this new novel. Instead, in The Witness for the Dead readers will get chances to see the airship factories for themselves, enjoy a few deep dives into elven opera, and most importantly, see how the average citizen of the Ethuveraz lives. This new entry into the world of elves and goblins shows us layers of the world that The Goblin Emperor hinted at from time to time, but would never be able to explore. The Witness for the Dead is not the sequel fans of The Goblin Emperor have been dreaming of. This is a very different novel, with different goals. This is a novel that deserves to have its artistic merits measured without constant comparison to its predecessor. It is then that you can see how ambitious The Witness for the Dead is: trusting readers to value theme over boiler-plate plots, to engage with an exploration of doing something for benefit versus doing something because it should be done, to love a character who never sees themselves as special as they actually are. This is a tale that eschews high stakes action for the quiet horror of city life. And it is every bit as brilliant as The Goblin Emperor without being the next The Goblin Emperor. I cannot recommend The Witness for the Dead highly enough, and I know that it has already become another of Addison’s books that I will revisit over and over and over again.

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