Cover Image: The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead

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Member Reviews

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.
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I think that Katherine Addison excels at writing stories that mixes fantasy and mystery, this novel is gripping, fascinating and highly entertaining.
The King of Goblin is on TBR and this was the first novel I in this world and had no issue with the characters or the world building.
Thara Celehar is a great characters, fleshed out and likable. I appreciated his empathy toward the victims and his moral strength. He fights for what he think is right.
The world building is amazing, it made me think of Far East and there's plenty of details.
There are various subplots in this story, most are murder investigations and one is on the horror side. Each of them is interesting.
It was an excellent read that kept me turning pages and I hope to read soon another novel by this author.
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I enjoyed returning to the world of the Goblin Emperor.
This mystery might be a good crossover to tempt people to try out fantasy.
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I would like to thank Tor Books and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison is riveting fantasy mystery novel set in the world of The Goblin Emperor. Although this book was supposedly a "sequel," this can be read standalone because it was a completely different story from the first book.

The story followed Thara Celehar, a Witness for The dead, who had the ability to communicate with the people who died recently. This ability helped him solved mysteries, murders, and family disputes to give closure to one's sudden death. After solving the murder of the late Emperor, Celehar moved to Amalo, a province far away from the court. In this new place, he became involved in a murder of an opera singer, a will dispute, and a serial killer on the loose.

Plotwise, this was an enjoyable read. Although it lacks the court politics from the first book, this was much more focus on the investigation of the murders and Celehar as a the main character. The story was quite slow, and the names were a little bit confusing that I was having a hard time tracking who was who. The world building was not as detailed as the first book, but that was okay. The novel had some themes that revolved around races, social status, revenge, and hypocrisy. The ending was okay, it didn't give me a mind-blowing experience because it felt quite sudden. 

Celehar had a very interesting personality. He had been burden with responsibilities, yet he remained full of honesty, integrity and compassioned. He was patient and dealt with problems and challenges with composure. 

Overall, The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison is still a solid read. I think readers will enjoy it more if they think of it as a different story rather than The Goblin Emperor's sequel.

3.5 stars!
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The nitty-gritty: A delightful fantasy/mystery and a loveable main character make this a must read for fans of The Goblin Emperor.

I’ll start this review by confessing that I have not read The Goblin Emperor, and after reading The Witness for the Dead, I think it’s perfectly fine to dive straight into this sequel first. This was my first experience with Katherine Addison, and I quite enjoyed it! Addison has created a wonderful fantasy world that is unlike anything I’ve read before, and I would definitely be interested in reading more stories set in this world.

The story revolves around a goblin named Thara Celehar, a Witness for the Dead who can “see” a newly dead person’s last moments by touching them. Citizens can ask him to “witness” whenever they have questions about a particular death, and Celehar takes his calling very seriously. There are several mysteries in the story, but the main one involves the murder of an elven woman named Arveneän Shelsin, an opera singer whose body was pulled out of a canal. Although he’s not a detective, Celehar is swept up in the mystery surrounding Shelsin’s death, which leads him on a circuitous route through the city, from the seedy dock areas to the glittering Vermillion Opera house. Little by little, Shelsin’s abrasive personality comes into focus as Celehar interviews those she was closest to. It seems like she had plenty of enemies, so finding the actual killer promises to be challenging.

This is a rather quiet, meandering story that takes its time and focuses more on the characters than the actual plot, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Celehar is definitely the star of the show, a thoughtful, religiously devout goblin who isn’t treated very well by most of the people he comes into contact with. Yet he retains an optimistic outlook despite this fact and treats everyone with kindness and respect. His ability to communicate with the dead makes people fear him, and even worse, a past affair with a married man resulted in scandal and a step down in status, and he's reminded of it often. Celehar had some lovely, endearing quirks, though. For example, he always feeds the stray cats in his neighborhood, and he’s very particular about wearing the correct clothing for the occasion. There is one funny series of events where Celehar is forced to wear a bright yellow coat—his sedate black one became unwearable—and he’s mortified to be seen in public with it. Addison fills her story with quirky details like this that made me laugh, and I loved Celehar even more because of them.

The other standout character for me was the manager of the Vermillion Opera, Pel-Thenior. He and Celehar spend a great deal of time together, and I had the sense that there could be a romance between them had the story been longer. Pel-Thenior is a possible murder suspect, at least in the beginning, since he confesses that he hated Min Shelsin and her antics. In fact, there was no love lost between Shelsin and the rest of the members of the opera either. As Celehar delves deeper into her relationships with the other cast members, he uncovers a high maintenance, highly volatile personality, and it becomes clear that no one really liked her at all.

Addison’s worldbuilding also won me over, with its oddly formal people and multi-faceted religions and traditions. I loved the attention to detail, like the many kinds of exotic tea that Celehar drinks—and believe me when I say that goblins take their tea very seriously! I was delighted to see some unexpected horror elements as well. Celehar is called upon to take care of a ghoul problem—ghouls are like zombies, rising from their graves if certain precautions aren’t taken, and if they aren’t dealt with immediately, they can turn deadly and start eating people. There is another scene where Celehar is forced to spend the night on a haunted hilltop, and it was fun seeing his reactions and the way he dealt with the dead. And I have to mention the Vermillion Opera, where a lot of the action takes place. I thought it was a fantastic setting for a murder investigation, with so many larger-than-life personalities all vying for a few choice roles, and I loved the decadent descriptions of the theatre itself.

The only thing that really tripped me up were the characters’ names, which were very long and hard to pronounce in my head as I was reading. Characters are often called by more than one name, which also confused me, because of certain honorific designations and depending on whether someone is addressing them in an informal or formal manner. Eventually I trained my brain to skip over the names entirely so I wouldn’t be pulled out of the story, and ultimately it didn’t really affect my enjoyment.

Now that I’ve had a taste of Katherine Addison’s unique world, I’m eager to go back and read The Goblin Emperor. I think new and old readers alike will really enjoy this one.

Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.
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Thank you to #Macmillan-Tor/Forge and #Netgalley for this ARC of The Witness of the Dead. 

I already knew Addison is a fabulous writer, but wow was I blown away by this one!  For a long time I thought The Goblin Emperor was a standalone, but this one really made the wait worthwhile, even though it can probably be described as a standalone in the Goblin Emperor World, rather than a second one in a series. If you love to read well written fantasy with great characters this is definitely the book for you!
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I absolutely loved this compact, perfectly plotted book set in the world of The Goblin Emperor. A mix of a character study and a detective whodunit, The Witness for the Dead delivers beautiful world-building, memorable characters, and a meditative self-reflective journey. Not to be missed.
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In this sort-of sequel to The Goblin Emperor, we follow the progress of Thara Celehar, Prelate of the god Ulis, and a Witness for the Dead, who can communicate with recently dead people in an attempt to discover final messages - where the will is hidden, for example, or more seriously...who killed them.  After helping to solve the assassination of the previous emperor (and helping to save the life of the new one), Thara Celehar is now living in a new city, far from the politics (and enemies) of the imperial court.  Which is not to say that his life is now free from the scheming and machinations of others.  The fact is, there is a lot of action happening in this book - 2 murders to solve, a powerful family with competing wills, rampaging ghouls, insanity-producing ghosts, fanatical church politics...and yet the overwhelming impression was one of contemplation.  The reader is deep inside the soul of Celehar for the entire book, with all of its anguish, and will to serve and survive, and attempts to remain emotionally detached (while caring, as always, very deeply).  It is a wonderful book that sets a wonderful character on a slow but palpable path towards inner peace and redemption.
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https://lynns-books.com/2021/06/24/the-witness-for-the-dead-the-goblin-emperor-2-by-katherine-addison/
3.5 of 5 stars
My Five Word TL:DR Review : An excellent, character focused story

The Witness for the Dead is the second book in Katherine Addison’s Goblin Emperor series – although it isn’t a continuation of that story but a focus on one of the character from book 1.  Strangely enough a character that I was keen to learn more about so i was very happy to discover that Addison had returned to this wonderful world.

I’ve actually borrowed from the book description to give you an idea of what the book is about because I think this gives a very good idea of what you can expect:

‘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 to use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.’

So, as you can see this book is far removed from Court and the Emperor.  However, even with that removal to the City Celehar hasn’t completely escaped politics and maneouvering.

The actual plot here revolves around a number of ‘cases’ that Celehar becomes involved with that range from murder mystery, will forgery and banishing ghouls and in fact some of the cases give us the really ugly truth of what Celehar’s strange abilities sometimes entail – seeing the last few moments of murdered victims can be particularly harrowing, as can speaking to those who died in horrible accidents and unsurprisingly Celehar’s work causes him many sleepless nights and strange and unsettling dreams.

The storylines we follow are interesting, particularly in giving a good feel for the City.  I loved to see the world of the Opera and all the tea shops with their varied food and drinks.  I liked the way that the author particularly focuses on day to day routines, clothes, etc and provides a clear picture of Celehar’s everyday life.  All of these things help to build a strong picture of Amalo, it’s poor quarters, the factories, living and working conditions, in fact Celehar himself does not receive a generous salary for the work he undertakes and it was interesting to see him struggling to justify purchases and making purchases second-hand.  There’s a sort of down to earth quality about these everyday things that is both mundane but at the same time strangely comforting to read and really helpful in building up a strong picture of the main character.

Which brings me to Celehar.  I mentioned above that this is a great character study and this is what really made this book stand out for me, much more than the plot in fact.  Celehar is such an unusual character.  How to explain.  I think the first thing that comes across is his formality.  He follows what he perceives to be the correct forms of etiquette in terms of speech almost with overbearing politeness at some points.  This comes down basically to the fact that he finds it difficult to interact with people and so I suppose adhering to a certain form of polite ‘rules’ provides him with comfort.  To be honest, I really liked him.  He’s thorough, he’s honest, a bit lonely, sad almost, but I loved his frankness and he felt so refreshingly different, I wanted to hug him but think he would be horrified by the notion.  He takes on board his tasks, no matter how distressing, in an uncomplaining fashion and is stubbornly determined to see them through even though they may make him unhappy.  It’s possible that Celehar is autistic – although I’m certainly not an expert so that could be completely wrong – but his difficulty in communicating with others, his almost obsessive attention to detail such as directions to and from places, his very structured and methodical way of dealing with situations, his straightforward way of describing things without softening the blow, all point in that direction.  The other thing I really liked about Celehar is that in spite of his own fears about certain things people like him, of course, some people are intimidated by the nature of his work, but what shines through here is that eventually his natural determination to help others wins him friends.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read with a character that I was keen to learn more about and a world that I was very happy to explore further.  A very different book than the Goblin Emperor but another example of how Addison excels at character development.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars
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It took me a while to finish this book because I literally had only a little spare time to read it this month. But thank you so much to Tor Forge for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. The first time that I've heard about this book, I didn't realize it was a sequel to the first novel, So when I went through the first few pages, it was a load of information overload that my brain couldn't keep up with. A ton of the world-building was obviously been established from the first book, so I had to pause on reading The Witness for the Dead by reading the first book, just so I had a clearer idea of the overall world that Katherine Addison built.

To start things off, I love Celehar's character and his overall role as this kind of medium detective through this book. Though I did notice that while this book is a sort of mystery/fantasy novel, it was more character-centric that the cases weren't the full highlight of the book but rather the thoughts and actions of Celehar himself.

It was interesting because, while I was intrigued by the cases that Celehar was going through it didn't really give an overall tight conclusion to which you'd be satisfied with, just an open ending kind of thing. I had a similar kind of vibe with Addison's book, last year, which was a Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction.

Maybe because of how this was a raw ARC, there might've been some changes to the published book where it was neatly written. There were parts where the plot kind of slowed down with the huge chunk of info-dumping, or the way the pacing just literally slows with the less action is done around the plot. 

Part of the reasons why I am giving this book a 4-stars rather than lower is because of how insanely complex Addison did the world-building in both books, but I do feel like there's still a ton more room of improvement when it comes to the building up of action scenes, especially if she were to continue the route of writing mystery and venture to a more thriller or suspense side.
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Categories: Standalone sequels / Side character promoted to protagonist / A gay ghoul-hunter and gumshoe
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At first, I wasn't sure this would live up to the pure magic of The Goblin Emperor, but the strength of Addison's writing assured me I was in capable hands. After about 20%, I was hooked (The Goblin who?) and it was a fast-paced, page-turning ride to the end.
This volume is a fair bit shorter than The Goblin Emperor and it felt even quicker with the pull of the plot (primarily a murder mystery). I would have loved to spend more time with these characters (it was a particular treat to experience the first-person narration of Thara Celehar who was such an intriguing presence in The Goblin Emperor), but I think the story was the perfect length. Any attempts to stretch it would have been a disservice to the narrative, I think. And anyway, leaving the reader wanting more is rarely a bad thing!
Although this is marketed as a standalone sequel, merely set in the same world of The Goblin Emperor, I would highly recommend reading Witness for the Dead after The Goblin Emperor. A lot of the worldbuilding takes place in The Goblin Emperor, and it would be a shame to miss out on any of the delicious details in the land of Edrehasivar, even though we have only seen such a relatively small part of it. I really hope Addison returns at some point to this world and these people because she writes them with such compassion and affection that it is pure joy to read.
I cannot recommend these two novels highly enough.
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So, while it says it’s #2, it’s actually a standalone novel. But it is set in the same world as The Goblin Emperor. In that first book, Maia, the young half-goblin emperor, wanted to know who had killed his father and half-brothers, and then he turned to a Witness for the Dead named Thara Celehar.

This book centers around him. Thara Celehar lives far from courts, in somewhat of a quasi-exile, serving the common people of the city of Alamo. His duty is communicating with the dead. Still, Celehar will follow the truth wherever it leads him, no matter who may be implicated in the murder, fraud, or ancient injustices.

I finished this book in only two days. Just to paint the picture more clearly: on average, a book like this would take me a week or so.

Make of that what you will.

I have to admit; I did have to get into it at first. The language use, difficult terminologies, and overly formal dialogue threw me off. However, once I got into it (and luckily, the dialogue wasn’t always that formal), I was hooked and found it very difficult to put the book away. Hence the two days.

There is just always something about murder mysteries that I find irresistible. I just had to find out how every single plotline would fit together. Because yes, there’s not just one murder. Celahar has more than one person to Witness for (and that’s not even mentioning the monsters he has to face).

It felt extremely satisfying to watch those plots weave themselves together, all the way to the final climactic moment, and we find out what actually happened. The ending in itself was satisfying but bittersweet.

Celahar was also a very likable character. He wants to do the right thing and make sure the dead have their justice. At the same time, he’s very self-conscious, always expecting people to think the worst of him and being afraid. It broke my heart a little bit each time he felt surprised that someone would actually treat him with kindness and gratitude.

The story also discusses many societal issues, such as racism, class divide, and the hostility against homosexuals. This gave really gave the story some additional layers.

If you enjoy a good murder mystery set in a fascinating magical world, with likable and memorable characters (although all have difficult names), you won’t be disappointed with this one.
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Witness for the Dead is a story set in the same world as the excellent The Goblin Emperor, but while it is billed as a sequel, you don’t have to have read TGE first. I did reread it, of course, and was very pleased to do so, but as it turned out there are only a few vague references in this volume. Oh, and the main character did have a big role to play in the first volume, so it’s nice to meet up again with Thara Celehar, the titular Witness for the Dead.

The other difference here is that it’s told in first person, as Celehar investigates several mysteries in the scope of his job. There are a couple of murder mysteries, and several other tasks taking his time, including laying a ghoul to rest.

The interweaving of the different plots has the odd effect of making the story feel very real and rich, while at the same time very nearly diluting the impact of any single one of them. That’s not a complaint, it ties back very well to my opinion of the first book that it felt sort of slow and un-actiony, while at the same time being such rich world-building that completely draws you in so you don’t really miss the big ‘punch’ factor.

So the story is a cross between the fantasy layer – a world of elves and goblins (much allegory on race, methinks) where some people can literally talk to the dead – and a detective story. Given the former, it’s a very down to earth kind of detecting. Celehar discovers a missing dead woman by spending his evening walks trailing through cemeteries reading headstones – sheer dogged determination, nothing flashy or ‘magical’ or anything like that.

The rest of the story includes some politics of the religious order he’s part of, lots of trauma from his past – that was touched on in TGE – and a few other characters’ with their own issues. As I said, it’s a very ‘real’ kind of a mix and pace, juxtaposing very well against the fantasy elements.

Very worth a read, even if you haven’t read TGE, and in some ways may actually be a better starting point if you’ve not yet dipped a toe into the somewhat unfamiliar kind of pace and storytelling of this world. Personally, I love the reread of book one, and then the chance to revisit this world especially from a less courtly viewpoint, and I just hope there are a lot more stories to come.
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This "sequel" to the Goblin Emperor follows Thera Celehar at his new post as a Witness for the Dead in the city of Amalo.  Although Celehar discovered the truth behind Maia's father's murder, he is not welcomed in Amalo with open arms.  The city government and other religious officials are leery of his ability to communicate with the dead. 

This book delves into the various religions of this world as well as the lives of common people.  Celehar is part private detective, part priest.  He is tasked with solving various murders as well as a few other death related tasks.  

Celehar is a great character, he is a man of quiet dignity and is very aware of his own flaws.  He lives a very closed off life due to past trauma.  In this new city will he be able to expand his world?

While this book is mostly separate from the action of The Goblin Emperor, I believe it is necessary to read the source material first to have a good understand of this book.  Also, the names in both books can be rather inscrutable.  While I read the book, if I reread it I would likely listen to the audiobook.
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Set amid the backdrop of the opera world and its artisans,a murder mystery unfolds. It is set in a world of goblins and half goblins. Courtesans desperate to hold onto their place of favor within the court. It has mystery and a calling to right the wrongs done to the dead. It is a fantasy of tragic elements and a bit of comedic insight into the back biting that goes along with artists jockeying for a place of prominence within the opera house. Thara has found a peaceful life after the intrigues of court. He has the ability and duty to honor the dead by bearing witness to the truth of their death. Tasked with finding the truth to a much loved soprano of the Opera company, his investigation lays bare all the lies and secrets that having an opera entails. Soon Thara is knee deep in revelations and singers. A fun read of a world very different than any I have read. Fun.
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6.5/10 stars

My full review can be found on my blog (link below).

[...]

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.
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THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD was exactly what I needed. It’s part month-in-the-life as Celehar goes about his duties, part murder mystery as he seeks justice for two women whose cases take longer to unravel. Addison imbues the whole thing with atmosphere to spare and wraps it in her usual delicious worldbuilding, with echoes of her earlier books throughout. I was more than happy to wallow in it, and I miss the hell out of it now it’s over. 4.5 stars

NB: even though this is set in the same world as THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, you don’t need to read the earlier book to understand this one. It’s a perfect standalone (but why you’d deny yourself TGE, I can’t say).
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Katherine Addison returns to the world of her wonderful The Goblin Emperor in a stand-alone sequel, The Witness for the Dead. The protagonist is Thara Celehar who featured in the first book as the investigator solving the previous emperor’s assassination. It made him unpopular in the court, and the Emperor relocated him to a remote industrial city of Amalo to serve as the witness for the dead there.

Celehar is a priest who can communicate with the recently departed, to stand witness for them in this life. As naturally reticent, he prefers the company of the dead too. But being a witness often means investigating the lives of the dead, to find justice for them after death. It makes him a de facto criminal investigator, the only one in Amalo.

Celehar has a lot on his plate. A young woman’s family wants to find out how she died, which leads him on the trail of a serial killer. Another family wants to learn the patriarch’s true last will, which plunges him back into the political machinations he left the court to escape. And an opera singer has been murdered, and there is no dearth of potential suspects. Add to that a ghoul, an industrial accident, and a personable opera director who serves to remind him that one cannot be true to who one loves in the empire of elves and goblins, and it’s not a wonder he doesn’t sleep well at nights.

This was an utterly wonderful book. The world is rich to a fault, yet the story is small in scope; a cosy mystery in its truest form. Celehar, like Maia in the first book, is a deeply humane character who strives to do his duty, but who isn’t without small faults that make him all the more likeable when he overcomes them. The focus is on solving the mysteries, and although Celehar finds a way to forgive himself for the events of the past (told already in the first book), the book ends with him pretty much in the same place than in the beginning. Only a few experiences richer and with a new friend.

With a world this wonderful and characters as great as Celehar and Maia, I hope the author will write many more books set there.
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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!
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When I found out a follow-up to The Goblin Emperor was in the works, I was thrilled, because I absolutely loved that novel. While this is a slighter tale, it showcases the same strengths as the first book—absolutely terrific worldbuilding and a main character a reader can root for.

Unlike The Goblin Emperor, which was the story of a young ruler growing into his power among political intrigue, The Witness for the Dead is more of a detective novel. Thara Celehar used his ability to speak to the recently deceased to help the emperor Maia discover who murdered his father and brothers. Now he has been given a posting far from court where he assists petitioners who need answers from the dead. Mostly it’s not exciting, but sometimes his duty includes finding out how and why someone died. And sometimes, that means tracking down a murderer.

As in the previous book, the pacing is leisurely. There’s only one true moment of action when Celehar confronts a ghoul that he’s supposed to lay to rest. Otherwise, Celehar mostly spends his time traversing the city looking for evidence and gently questioning people in pursuit of the answers to two mysteries—the murder of a young opera singer and the death of a woman and her unborn child—while (unsuccessfully) attempting to avoid the demands of the church hierarchy of which he is an uncomfortably odd part.

The slow pace at which the plot unfolded didn’t bother me. It gave me time to appreciate the wonderful worldbuilding, which is detailed to the point of making this fantasy realm of magic and airships feel completely real. I also came to like Celehar just as much as I liked Maia. They are both good men with difficult pasts attempting to do what they believe is right without a lot of support from other people.

Actually, Celehar’s past is part of the reason he is so isolated. It’s a tragedy worthy of the opera that plays a central role in the plot: Celehar was forced to condemn his lover to death as a part of his duties as a witness. The fact that his lover was a man is regarded as shameful, and the potential for further scandal haunts him. So, Celehar continues to mourn his lover and avoids potential entanglements. Which made me sad because I’m a romantic at heart. Celehar deserves to find love again, darn it!

I’m not sure I dare hope for another book featuring Celehar, but I’d love to spend more time with him. As for this book, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves excellently written fantasy, especially fans of The Goblin Emperor.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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