Cover Image: The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead

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I LOVED this book so much. On the surface it's a murder mystery, or rather several murder mysteries, but really it's a study of Thara Celehar. And Thara Celehar is SO relatable. He is humble and honest and prefers helping the commoners who petition him to involving himself in the politics he nevertheless gets drawn into. He has a deep-seated belief that he is somehow less worthy than others, and in some ways he is serving penance for what he perceives to be wrongs from his past. That most people wouldn't see them as wrongs doesn't matter, because he does. He cares for people and goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone, expecting nothing in return. Much as Maia was humble, honest, and hopeful in the Goblin Emperor, Celehar is humble and honest, though not hopeful. He is rather a pessimist.

I loved the journey of it, the way the story meandered from mystery to mystery, as Celehar followed his calling to help anyone who asked it of him. Along the way he finds several unexpected friends and people who obviously care for him, though he seems unable to believe it.

It is satisfying, in a way, to see all of these people who clearly value him, as the reader must value him after following him through his journey, and at the same time him not value himself. I hope that many good things are in store for Celehar, and I hope we get to continue on his journey to accept that maybe he's not as terrible as he thinks he must be.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Tor-Forge for providing an e-arc for review.
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Very interesting! I like the originality of the narrative and the writing. The character were likeable and the ending satisfying. I very good read! I would recommend it!
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Confession: I didn't love the Goblin Emporer as everyone else seemed to. There were so many names that I felt too lost to feel anything. However, even though I still couldn't handle all of the names in The Witness for the Dead, the context helped me not get lost. 

I loved this book. 

There is something comforting about reading about people trying to do well with each other while dealing with other people who wish to do well too. Some are too selfish, but they are dealt with appropriately. 

All Celehar wants is to work and not deal with politics. I love his character. He's so honest. And everyone around him recognizes that.

I was sad when the book ended. I wouldn't mind continuing going with Celehar solving crimes to help the deceased's families.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.
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What a wonderful follow-up to The Goblin Emperor. Yes, I very much missed Maia, but this was an excellent slice of life from the other spectrum of this world in which imperial riches and politics are replaced with far more normal financial difficulties, the joy of ending a work day with a cup of tea, and "office" bickering and pettiness. I thoroughly enjoyed Celehar and his reluctant adventures and watching him quietly and subtly pull himself from grief. It took me a couple chapter to get into it (you're thrown in the deep end of a magical world with all its titles and unfamiliarity) but otherwise the pacing was good and I finished it quite quickly. And the ghoul scene was terrifying!
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This book is a great melange of Addison's two previous novels, The Goblin Emperor and The Angel of the Crows. Set in the world of The Goblin Emperor, the main character is Thara Celehar, whose job requires him to travel his assigned area and resolve matters of the dead - which ends up meaning that he's a detective, solving murders, investigating suspicious deaths, and resolving inheritance issues (as the characters of The Angel of the Crows do). 

The plot is long and meandering, giving the reader plenty of time to settle in and enjoy the world building. On the other hand, it means that there's not much urgency or forward momentum, which is an interesting choice in a detective novel. Every time we took a break from reading, we found ourselves happy to come back and immerse ourselves in the world. Fans of The Goblin Emperor will be disappointed that Maia does not make an appearance, but will be happy to revisit the Elflands. 

If you like slow-paced books with deep world building and well-developed characters, The Witness for the Dead is perfect.
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Había muchísima expectación respecto a la publicación de The Witness for the Dead, la continuación de The Goblin Emperor. Aunque la novela original es completamente autoconclusiva, un sector del público quería conocer más historias ambientadas en este extraño mundo de goblins, elfos y dirigibles.



Addison se aleja un poco de lo esperado cambiando el escenario y también de personaje principal, aunque ya lo conocíamos de la primera entrega. En lugar de en los entresijos de palacio nos sumergimos en el mundo de la jerarquía eclesiástica. De una forma muy amena la autora nos habla de las diferentes creencias y permutaciones de la fe, la omnipresencia de los miembros del clero en la sociedad y la variedad de sus funciones.


En este sentido el worldbuilding es tan interesante como el del primer libro, sustituyendo las intrigas cortesanas por las clericales y comerciales.


El protagonista es un «testigo de los difuntos» que recibe a peticionarios que desean algo que sus parientes recientemente fallecidos sabían. Posee una limitada capacidad de leer recuerdos de los cadáveres que raramente arrojan luz sobre las cuestiones que se le plantean.


Este poder divino está a disposición de los peticionarios que lo deseen, sean personas privadas o públicas. A lo largo de la novela iremos enlazando diversas «investigaciones» de esta índole.


La variedad de peticiones y de asuntos en los que se ve enredado en protagonista es de lo más interesante. Desde muertes sospechosas, asesinatos, herencias y sucesos sobrenaturales. Todo tiene cabida en el desempeño de sus funciones, hasta aplacar a los ghouls que se levantan de sus tumbas cuando no se respetan los ritos funerarios.


Más que una trama en sí misma, lo que nos ofrece la novela es el relato de una parte de la vida del protagonista, incluyendo reflexiones sobre su pasado y, sobre todo, su futuro, ya que su don no es durarero.

En cuanto a la prosa, hay que decir que fluye muy bien y que recuerda, en cierto modo, a esas novelas basadas en la regencia y la época victoriana, que son tan del gusto de los escritores de fantasía.


Addison adopta un estilo en primera persona para centrar la narración, lo que es de agradecer, ya que hay un cierto baile de nombres y apelativos que puede ser excesivo en sus primeras páginas


Una vez superado este pequeño obstáculo, sólo queda disfrutar de las intrigas y misterios en los que se verá envuelto el protagonista.


El libro tiene un ritmo pausado pero constante. No encontraremos muchas escenas de acción frenética en la vida de un sacerdote que vive solo en la gran ciudad pero Addison capta y mantiene nuestro interés porque no se va por las ramas y siempre está ocurriendo algo. Aunque solo sea relatar la visita del protagonista a la sala de mapas para que le expliquen cómo llegar a la ópera.


La novela está repleta de pequeños papeles secundarios para una multitud de personajes que pueblan la ciudad en la que transcurre la acción. Cabría destacar el director de la ópera como una suerte de detective adjunto en algunas escenas pero el resto para desapercibido. Resulta curioso que Addison preste mucha atención al lenguaje físico de las orejas, cuyos gestos y posiciones revelan tanto de la actitud de los personajes como cualquier otra parte del cuerpo. Quizá pretenda reforzar la idea de que estamos hablando de goblins y elfos, pero que son seres eminentemente humanos.


En definitiva nos encontramos ante una novela pausada tanto en su ritmo con en su desarrollo, de esas que sirven para reconciliarte con el mundo. No llega al nivel de The Goblin Emperor pero es más que recomendable. The Witness for the Dead impregna al lector de una sensación de bienestar muy parecida a la que causa la obra de Becky Chambers.
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I relistened to the audiobook for The Goblin Emperor and remembered what I loved about Addison's writing.  Long, flowing sentences that feel like poetry; a focus on characters' emotions so everything feels personal and significant; surprising one-liners that made me laugh a few times throughout the story.
Witness for the Dead is a spin off, following a minor(?) character from The Goblin Emperor as they move on with their life after the dramatic murder of a royal family and investigation.  
I LOVE this idea.  I'm thinking now of characters from other stories... what happened to them?  What happened to the police officers arresting Sherlock Holmes' suspect?  What about the scientist who developed the gadgets for James Bond, the lab coats in the background who never got a speaking role?
The Goblin Corps scratched this itch for me a decade ago: Lord of the Rings (and similar) had a dream team of the "good" races, one human, one elf, etc.  What about the bad guys?
Ever wonder what it's like to work for COBRA, and fight against GI Joe?  I loved that story too.
Witness for the Dead did that for me, it made me think of other ways of telling stories.
You don't nnneeeeeeeedddd to read The Goblin Emperor first, but you really should.  Its a good book in its own right, and Addison has improved as a writer 
**I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Even though this is a standalone novel set in the same world, I would recommend reading The Goblin Emperor first to better appreciate the world building.

I was hoping to see my cinnamon roll Maia, but was utterly disappointed. But nevertheless, I really enjoyed it! The novel is a first person narrative of Thara Celehar, the 'Witness for the Dead' from The Goblin Emperor. I was intrigued by it in the first book, and this one gave an indepth understanding of what a Witness of the Dead does and the politics poor Celehar has to dodge just to do his work.

You could say this a murder mystery. From beginning to the very end, we see Celehar facing different cases - a woman found dead in a canal, a ghoul attack, a possible serial killer, and how he tries to bring peace to the victims as much as he can.

I have to say, the emotional rollercoaster I faced in The Goblin Emperor was missing, but doesn't mean Celehar was a bad character. The novel starts off a little slow, but it picks up after about 30-40%. The names of places and characters can get a little overwhelming, just like in The Goblin Emperor.


Highly recommended to The Goblin Emperor fans!
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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.
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DNF. I really liked the premise but the writing did not work for me at all. It wouldn't be fair to the book if I finished reading and gave it a low rating.
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Addison returns to the world of The Goblin Emperor in this new story focusing on Celehar, the Witness for the Dead. Part character study, part mystery, Celehar’s path introduces him to villains, mysteries, political intrigue, and small, ordinary stories that weave together well. As interesting a companion as Celehar is, the real star is the world Addison surrounds him with; I can’t wait for a next book, and to spend more time learning about the fascinating world she has created for her characters.
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First, if you haven’t read The Goblin Emperor you really should.  Celehar is as sweet and gentle a soul as Maia.  While you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one it will set the world up for you for this one.
Celehar is a speaker for the dead and has some abilities to sense the last thoughts of the dead and to lay the uneasy dead to rest.  He becomes involved in a murder investigation and it is his duty to see justice found for the dead who have nobody else.  If you like fantasy and enjoy a fairly gentle mystery story as well I recommend this one highly.  These books are both gentle and fairly soothing reads because of the good nature of the protagonists.
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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.
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A calm, gentle journey with intrigue and charming characters along the way.

Fans of Katherine Addison will be pleased with her latest novel, The Witness for the Dead, which I personally found to be a delightful mixture of her two previous novels. It combines the mystery-solving aspect of The Angel of the Crows with the worldbuilding of The Goblin Emperor.

I'm a massive fan of The Goblin Emperor, so the moment I got the invitation to read this ARC, I couldn't wait to read this sequel. However, I should make one thing clear: this story is not a direct sequel to TGE, and Maia is only mentioned offhandedly (but I was very excited at the mention nonetheless!). Instead, it follows Thara Celehar, a minor character in the original novel. Celehar is a mild-mannered Witness for the Dead, meaning he has the power to briefly communicate with any recently deceased persons. This makes him ideal for solving mysterious deaths. 

Another warning: if you didn't like the avalanche of impenetrable worldbuilding details from TGE, you may encounter the same struggle with The Witness for the Dead. Addison doesn't hesitate to throw readers headfirst into a thick, dense mire of names and customs. It's all very well-done, very internally consistent, but nonetheless the opposite of an easy read. There were many moments I got characters confused with each other, but this was usually quickly solved by reading further and picking up the answer from context.

What I personally enjoyed the most about this book was seeing the little ways Celehar helps the people in his community. Not just by solving murders for them, but delivering letters between estranged family members, listening to miscellaneous problems of dramatic opera singers, comforting the grieving after an awful airship accident, and even feeding his neighbourhood cats. There's a quietly cosy atmosphere to this book, something that made The Goblin Emperor such a joy to read.

A very recommended read, albeit with some caveats.
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The Witness For the Dead
by Katherine Addison
Thank you so much NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the advanced copy.

Katherine Addison is fast becoming one of my favorite authors, the Goblin Emperor is on of my favorite fantasies of the last decade and  The Angel of the Crows was very enjoyable, although very different.

The Witness for the Dead is set in the world of The Goblin Emperor, diffrent city, new main character that only played a small in the Goblin Emperor.  It has no real connection to the GE except for the world it is set in.
.
You should still read it.  One of my favorite things about K.A. books is how amazingly good she is at writing real, flawed, human characters, there are no over the to villains or saintly heroes, only people.
TWFTD is a murder mystery, and takes the reader through the city of Amalo and futher, with Thara Celehar a witness for the dead, as he looks for the killer of a local opera singer.  He has to tread carefully both amongst the city's elite and the criminal underworld, and his place among the city's religious' orders is precarious.  That is just the beginning.

As a fan of the GE I have been waiting in suspence for more from this world and The Witness for the Dead did not disappoint, it has all the hallmarks of a good Katharine Addison book.
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The Angel of the Crows was the first book I read by Katherine Addison. I loved the supernatural, gender-swapped take on Sherlock Holmes. I’m glad this book came out because it gave me an excuse to read the Goblin Emperor without having to wish and wait for the sequel.
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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 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 honesty 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.

Celehar’s skills now 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."

I don't know how I feel about picking up this book as The Goblin Emperor was so...impenetrable.
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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. The ending especially soured my feelings, because I despise Agatha Christie-esque ‘solutions’ to mysteries; ie, when there’s no way the reader could put the answer together, even in hindsight, because the author prefers a ‘le gasp!’ reveal at the second-last moment to working clues into the narrative. And I don’t feel like it’s much of a spoiler to let you know that’s how one of the major plotlines gets wrapped up, because I’m not telling you which one – and it’s something I would want to know, if I was going into a story that is, for the most part, a murder-mystery.

However I felt about the ending, though, I really enjoyed the reading experience. I finished my ARC in about 24 hours, which is rare for me these days, but I just couldn’t put it down. Addison’s writing is beautiful, and I loved the attention to detail that went into the worldbuilding, from street names to terms of address. Celehar himself is a very sympathetic character; I would like to offer him a hug, if the impropriety of it wouldn’t horrify him. He’s an intrinsically honest and straightforward person who is deeply dedicated to his duties – and not just his duties, but what he sees as his duties, which include many things not officially demanded of him, but which he is capable of and which will help people. He carries around a lot of guilt for past ‘indiscretions’, and will work himself to the bone to give comfort or take care of others.

Every other character, as well, no matter how minor, felt impressively fleshed-out. Addison has created an interesting cast – not too big to juggle, but enough to give the reader a bit of an idea of just how diverse Celehar’s city is, and enough that they all get enough page time to feel like real and complete people. It’s really impressive from a writing perspective, and a treat from a readerly one!

Basically, I have nothing but praise for most aspects of this book. But once I take a step back, I find myself hugely unsatisfied with it as a standalone. It reads like the start of a series, maybe, but if that’s supposed to be it – and I think it has been stated that this is supposed to be a standalone – then it’s just… I’m not sure I’ve ever said this before, but if Witness is all we get, then I don’t know what the point of it was. I know it should be enough that it was a fun read, ending notwithstanding…but it doesn’t feel like enough, this time. I like standalones. But this doesn’t feel like a standalone. This feels like a slice-of-life, not a self-contained story; like we saw a few weeks or months of Celehar’s life at random. Does that make sense? In that sense, it doesn’t really feel like a story. It’s just… A bit of Celehar’s life. It doesn’t really build to anything, and closing the final page doesn’t leave me with the vague but happy sense that I know how the characters will get on now the story is done.

Maybe this is very normal of mystery novels, and I’m unhappy because I’m not familiar with what’s actually a perfectly normal structure for a mystery novel – I don’t read mysteries, I don’t know if this is how it’s supposed to go. The closest thing I can think of is that certain sub-section of urban fantasy where you have some kind of detective-y character solving cases, stories which tend to be quite action-heavy, and where each book in the series has its own internal plot that may or may not interlock with the next book. I’m not usually a fan of those, and Witness didn’t feel even like one of them, to me. I’m not sure why, because Celehar is detective-ing too, isn’t he? Maybe it’s just that the tone is so completely different; although Witness moves along briskly, it never feels like being stuck in an action movie. Maybe the more introspective, thoughtful prose undercuts a sense of urgency? Which leaves the ‘cases’ Celehar’s investigating feeling…like this is his everyday-work, rather than something that needs All The Solving RIGHT NOW.

There’s also a few threads which feel like they’re building up to something, but which are cut off by the book’s ending before they can really go anywhere. In particular, Witness seemed to be hinting that one of Celehar’s friendships was going to develop into a romance, but that didn’t happen – which left me feeling like an important thread had just fizzled out instead of becoming something. I don’t care about romantic plotlines, but I don’t like being encouraged to root for one only for it to not happen. That just leaves me confused and frustrated.

Ultimately, my critiques come down to two main points: I think this is a very poor example of a standalone (a critique which obviously becomes null and void if it turns out the plan is to write more Celehar books), and the ending felt very abrupt. Like I said, I was left wondering what was the point? Which is not something I’m used to thinking about books, ever!

On the other hand, I really enjoyed actually reading this book. Addison is a great writer, the cast is wonderful, the worldbuilding flawless. I have to give it four stars for all those reasons, and in gratitude for the hours that disappeared like seconds while I was reading. If you accept Witness for what it is, then there’s no way to call it a bad book.

So basically: if you’re okay with murder-mysteries set in a highly detailed fantasy world? Then absolutely go for it! But if you’re looking for something else, I urge you to look elsewhere. Just because you loved The Goblin Emperor does not mean this is the book for you.

But if you can accept Witness for what it is, then I think you’ll enjoy it.
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A welcome return to the world of The Goblin Emperor, albeit one with a different narrator and a new environment and themes to explore. Reading the previous book is recommended, though as this is a stand-alone title not required to understand and enjoy the novel, which stands on its own feet as a delightful experience all on its own.

Thara Celehar (our protagonist and once-ally of Maia, our previous hero in The Goblin Emperor) now works as a Witness for the Dead in the city of Amalo, a role which I am going to try and summarize as a kind of "investigator with religious obligations and standing who asks people a lot of questions, some of whom happen to have recently died (though with the dead this is more of feelings and fragments then a Q&A session)." This is an inelegant summary of the role Celehar plays, and readers of the previous book will have a firmer understanding of what a witness for the dead does, while readers of this novel will be fully immersed in these duties and generally follow along happily.

In terms of how this works in the novel, Celehar basically solves a bunch of minor and not-so minor mysteries in the city he is residing in, engages in minor political/religious battles over his own standing in the community, goes on a few religious pilgrimages (and one dangerous religious duty), and generally tries to live his own life. You get a real feel for the city and the world that these stories take place in, become invested in different characters and their own plotlines, and find yourself rooting for Celehar to succeed in his many different mystery-quests. 

A very good read, especially for fans of The Goblin Emperor who have been crawling up the walls trying to get more from that world. There is very little cross-over between the two titles, however, so fans going into the book should be aware this is truly a stand-alone title.
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Katherine Addison is back again with another amazing story! This one takes place as a stand-alone sequel to her previous book The Goblin Emperor (but I read it without reading that one and it was perfectly fine). I had read her other work Angels of Crows earlier last year and IT WAS MY FAVORITE SHERLOCK RETELLING EVER. Anyways, this story follows Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara has the ability to speak for the dead and after the events of the previous book he is now just working in a semi-exile. He was kicked out as the retainer of his cousin (the former Empress) and even though he tries to avoid as much politics as possible he now finds himself in a new mess. Throw in a mysterious murder and now we have a mystery on our hands. It was a thrilling journey to navigate every clue and witness with Thara and discover how he deals with not only the politics of his job but the politics of the city. Thara was an interesting protagonist and reading from his perspective was great. 

*Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
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