Cover Image: The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead

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This book is in some way very similar and in others utterly different than its predecessor The Goblin Emperor.  And both are very, very good.

The similarities come from seeing this universe through the point of view of someone who has responsibilities they don't particularly want, but fulfill them excellently anyway out of a sense of duty to their fellow sentients.  Maia (the titular Emperor) and Thara Celehar (the titular Witness) are also both fundamentally kind yet severely traumatized people who deal with a crap ton of crap in a short time and despite their struggles succeed professionally (if not necessarily personally).  In this book alone there is an operatic murder mystery, a fight against risen from the dead ghouls, industrial accidents, grappling with the role of the proletariat in an industrializing society, hesitant steps toward love, a religious trial by ordeal with unquiet ghosts, prelate political machinations, massive and horrific industrial accidents, families reconnecting, families exploding due to inheritances, considerations of theological variety (in which magic and religion clearly exist and work), and sincere contemplation of tea.  And Thara Celehar handles it all with quiet, relentless, emotionally repressed confidence.  

The main difference is that we are not with the Emperor, but instead a poverty-stricken prelate.  And this gives us a much more ground level view of the Empire.  Addison has done a great job of world building and how she weaves together history, religion, technology, race, geography, and little telling details is incredibly well done.  

I can't help but want more in this series!  A great entry in the recent trend of SF/Fantasy about good (but often damaged) people trying to do the right thing.
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Katherine Addison wrote yet another utterly likeable protagonist. Celehar was such a kind person that genuinely just wanted to help others despite all that is pitted against him. I loved watching him and Pel-Thenhior interact both while actively trying to solve the opera singer's death, and in more social interactions. The mysteries in the book were totally captivating and the ending totally threw me for a loop, but, looking back, it was such a great way to connect aspects of the story together. Beyond the investigation(s), there were parts of the story that felt like genuine slice-of-life moments that made Celehar a complex character and made him so enjoyable to read about. The world of The Goblin Emperor books is a complicated and often difficult one, but Celehar's story added to the depth and made for a very real and fascinating read.
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Katherine Addison is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. It's gotten to the point where I will buy her books automatically and I can count on one hand the number of books I buy this way. I was first introduced by The Angel of the Crows which I absolultely adored (I'm hoping she will expand on that wonderful world especially Crow). I have to admit that I have not read the first book in The Goblin Emperor series but I have it on my TBR list. It was a bit confusing for me at first but as I said, I have not read the first book in the series so it is my own fault. I love the world she has created and the characters.
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I don’t love this book as much as I love The Goblin Emperor, but that would be very difficult, and there is a lot to love about this book all the same. It follows Thara Celehar, and has very little to do with the first book, except in expanding what Celehar does and showing us his witnessing first hand. It also expands the world far beyond the court, so that we get to see how ordinary people live and interact — a thing which Maia will never, ever see, and which I think he would find fascinating.

The book is a murder mystery, essentially — actually, several — and also features more directly obvious magic than in the first book. There are ghouls and ghosts, and Celehar’s ability to commune with the dead is also a much bigger part. Inevitably, the various stories come together to some degree, but it doesn’t come together in too neat a knot; they aren’t all related. (For fellow mystery fans, I have to say that I don’t think you can actually work this one out for yourself; we don’t have enough information about a particular character to be able to discern their motive, means or opportunity.)

Celehar is just as tortured a character as he seemed from the previous book, and it should be noted that (in this book at least) there’s comparatively little comfort for him. There is a short scene where another character does manage to lighten the burden of his conscience, and he also makes a friend… though the friendship — and the potential that it could be more — also frightens him, because he isn’t over the secret he confesses to Maia in The Goblin Emperor. If you’re looking for something that feels as hopeful as The Goblin Emperor, then this isn’t it; Celehar is deeply guilty, and though his care for his work and his compassion for the dead are as sincere as Maia’s goodness, he is not driven by the same need to be mindful, to be good. He’s a very different character, and it gives the book a different mood and flavour.

In a way, this is a mash-up of Addison’s other books, The Goblin Emperor and The Angel of the Crows, and I don’t love it quite as much as either. I think it suffers somewhat from brevity — at 275 pages, I was wondering how it could possibly be tied up by 314 pages, and the answer is that a couple of the story threads feel rushed — but despite that, I liked it a lot.
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In this companion novel to The Goblin Emperor, Thara Celehar, gained fame when he helped the emperor uncover the truth of the emperor's father's murder. Now, living in the city of Amalo, he serves as a Witness for the Dead, where he investigates and speaks for the dead when people come to him to uncover the truth. He can get impressions of the recently dead to help him discover how their deaths occurred. However, despite his success rate, politics and his past make others in service to the gods distrustful of him, not easing his lack of self-regard. 

I really liked this! It's more like a "a day in the life of" story, where we follow Thara as he investigates primarily two different deaths, with some additional side work that comes his way. I really enjoyed the investigations and how Celehar navigated the various groups of people that he had to interact with. As with The Goblin Emperor, there are some complicated naming and language formality structures that I just ignored, but could bother some people. I like the way Celehar’s mind works and loved how subtly he begins to value himself. Overall, this mystery/fantasy novel was exactly what I wanted to be reading. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Torbooks for the gifted e-arc.
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I liked this book in only that it was so odd. The writing is phenomenal, albeit hard to follow on occasion. Truly a unique novel in every sense of the word.
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I really liked this one, it was really good and one that I definitely would recommend. I love a good fantasy so it’s def worth checking out for anyone who likes them,
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This sequel to Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor stars Thara Celehar, Prelate of Ulis and Witness for the Dead (able to sometimes share the very last experiences of the departed). 

this episode is essentially a murder mystery. In fact, our unassuming hero solves several murders, including one by a ghoul.

The only small drawback to my enjoyment of the story was confusion over the rather complicated character names and titles. That aside, I enjoyed Celehar's company and look forward to more of it.
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Witness for the Dead is a follow-up to Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, set in the same world and involving an overlapping character, but it’s really a stand-alone novel in that universe and not so much a sequel. So much so that one can absolutely read it without having read The Goblin Emperor as any prior events that directly impact this story (and they are few) are clearly recapped.  

Thara Celehar is a Prelate of Ulis and, more importantly for this story, a Witness for the Dead, which means he has the gift of being able to communicate in limited fashion with a recently deceased corpse — see their death, know their final thoughts, — though success and degree of success are highly dependent on a number of variables.  As you might imagine, this skill might come in handy for investigating suspicious deaths, and this is the main driving point of the plot here.  Celehar actually has several jobs in Witness for the Dead. The main plot centers on Celehar trying to discover what happened to an opera singer who was definitely murdered. A side plot involves a young woman who may have been murdered by her husband. He has since disappeared and Celehar begins to suspect he may have killed before and will probably do so again.  Finally, there is the resolution of a disputed will (it helps to be able to speak to the dead when clarifying their intended disposition of assets).  The plot is rounded out with several non-murder related threads:  Celehar’s possible attraction to the opera house composer/director and his trip to “quiet” a ghoul causing problems in another town.

On the surface then, Witness for the Dead appears to be a mystery, but really, the mystery is the least interesting, least successful aspect of the novel. One victim was wholly unlikeable (becoming more so the more we learn of them) and the others we never meet or learn much of. Similarly, we’re not invested in any of the potential suspects, save one.  Meanwhile, while Celehar’s investigations are diligent, they’re also somewhat desultory, and though they kick things off, the end results are somewhat arbitrarily arrived at. So if you’re looking for a compelling fantasy novel, this isn’t going to be it.

What Addison does offer is a quietly lovely character study set in a richly detailed setting. Celehar is a wonderful character creation, a shy, withdrawn person who several times notes how much more comfortable he is communicating with the dead versus the living. He’s also a person haunted by his past, a past that colors his interactions with others, his view of the world, stops him from sleeping well. He’s also a good person, one full of empathy, one always seeking to do what is right, so much so that he puts his own life at risk but so obliviously he doesn’t even understand when one of his friends tells him how much his disregard for his own life concerns them. You can’t help but root for this thoughtful, haunted, gentle, introspective person, in his investigations, his political trials that arise, in his halting, maybe possibility of a relationship. It’s his voice and demeanor that really carry the book, not the plot.

The other strong aspect is Addison’s sense of detail. Whether it’s the opera house — its setting and its workings —, the streets of the city, the many and sundry teahouses with their many and sundry teas (seriously, this novel must set a record for tea references per page), the outlying town with its ghoul issue, or any of a number of other pieces of this universe we’re introduced to, it all comes fully alive so the reader feels utterly immersed in this world.

If you’re looking for action or for a truly compelling plot, Witness for the Dead probably isn’t your best choice. But if you like character-driven stories and sharply detailed worlds, then it’s probably, umm, you’re cup of tea.
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I enjoyed Witness for the Dead, and found it quite soothing, but I didn't love it like I thought I would. Addison's world is wonderfully intricate but also excessively complicated, and whilst I liked the gentle hero, the plot (when there was one) meandered to excess.

----"What happened?" "She was murdered," I said. "Do you know who did it?" "No," I said, "but to witness for her, I must find out."----

My biggest question before starting was whether I should reread The Goblin Emperor. I read it two years ago, and loved it, but remember little to none of the details. Having finished this, I'd say that rereading that isn't necessary, and you could probably get away without reading that at all (though if you had to read this or that, I'd pick that any day).

The story follows Thara Celehar, Witness for the Dead, as he investigates the death of a woman found washed up in the canal. Some might call it a cozy mystery–no running or fighting in sight–but I think it might be better described as a slice of life, because there’s little to no tension or urgency surrounding the death, and part of the charm of the book is watching Celehar go about his every day life, drinking tea and feeding stray cats.

I loved the intricacy of Addison’s steam-punk world. It’s not particularly large, but it’s easily imagined, with its tram systems and opera, tea houses and air ships. There’s even pre-payment gas meters which, as someone who works in the domestic energy industry, was a wonderful surprise.

Celehar is a kind soul who walks through life swathed in a cloak of gentle melancholy. He’s dutiful to a fault and conscientious in all he does; not proud but far from a pushover either. He has few friends and is surprised by every kindness shown to him. I liked him, and could have loved him, but I felt there was a distance between us that was never really closed.

For all of these good points, the book only just scraped three stars. The book has next to no plot, and what plot there is meanders to extremes, with random sub-plots coming to the fore at various times, making you question whether there was a point to any of them or if any would even see a resolution. In fact, what resolution we did see of the main plot was entirely underwhelming.

Unfortunately, none of this was helped by the over-whelming complexity of Addison’s religious set up, her hierarchy of honorifics or her unusual and ever-changing nomenclature. Even now, I’m unsure of the difference between the Archprelate and the Amal-othala, nor do I know if there’s any connection between Ulineise(i) and Ulistheileian, or if they have anything to do with the Untheileneise. The names were nearly impossible to remember (let alone pronounce), and seem to have infinite possible varieties depending on situation.

Witness for the Dead is a book to read if you’re looking for a relaxed vibe and a fantastical slice of life. It is not a book to rush through, and it certainly won’t keep you glued to the page. I’m unlikely to recommend it, but do not regret having read it. I would recommend The Goblin Emperor, so if you’re looking for something to read, look there. If you’re looking for something like it, try Penric’s Demon instead.
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I didn't love this as much as the Goblin Emperor, but I did enjoy going back to the world. The delineation between the different races, which had some real consequences in the last book is noted but doesn't seem to carry a lot of weight. There are a lot of things happening all at once to the main character, whose head you are in so much that it's quite difficult to see their real-life power/effect on everyone else that doesn't get swept aside by his self-effacement. He's a very competent character that just would like to be left alone - vibes of Penric, Cazaril or other Bujold main characters who have been around the block a few times and would like to just work, not get involved in the inevitable political/religious machinations around him. Overall, I think there was a few too many plot threads for one book, and felt a bit disjointed, but it definitely pulled me in.
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I'm sorry to say that this book didn't really grab me.
Somehow I could not get into the story and the protagonists didn't make me feel anything. 
I tried to like this book but it fell right in the middle for me, that place where you can't say you didn't like the story but also can't say you liked it enough to want to buy it. I liked the premise of the book but sadly it could not hold my attention.
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This was a super engaging murder mystery, set in the same universe as and slightly after the events of The Goblin Emperor. It took a bit to get into because the world-building feels almost intentionally opaque, but I ended up becoming engrossed fairly quickly.
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This is an excellent companion novel to Addison's THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, but it stands on its own as well, with only a couple of vague spoilery references to TGE, and I believe that new fans could easily start with this book first, and then turn to the other. 

Thara Celehar had a small but vital role in THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, where he was tasked to be a "witness" for the dead who were killed in the airship accident that kicks off the novel. In THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD, readers are able to see more clearly what being such a witness entails: though there is some unique/semi-magical talent involved, witnessing also includes a fair amount of general detective work. We see Celehar asked to serve as witness for a woman whose body was recovered from a canal (was it an accident? a murder?); and along the way, we see him dealing with other inquiries as part of his role, as well as struggling with some of the bureaucratic and chain-of-power issues that come up when one has a special talent that confuses/bewilders other people.

There is a lot of plot packed into a fairly small novel, and it is a testament to Katherine Addison's skill that she can make it all fit together so smoothly, and at the same time, give readers a taste of the life and atmosphere of an Elvish opera company, as well as more rural lifestyles than we saw in THE GOBLIN EMPEROR -- and of course, we get to know Celehar himself much better. While one might argue that Celehar is almost too good to be true, I find his quiet shyness and outspokenness (an odd, but real combination) too likeable to resist -- and so despite some of the dark subjects that are touched on in this book, I found it a relaxing and calming read.
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Goblin Emperor is one of my absolute favourite books of all time so I was really really excited to read the sequel.
In Witness for the Dead we get to see the continuation of Thara Celahar’s story . We see Thara try his level best to solve the cases that finds him while trying navigate politics and his growing loneliness. 
I loved all the different mysteries Thara gets involved in during the course of the story from murder mysteries to inheritance disputes, serial killers and even Ghouls. It was all really interesting and kept me hooked. I also lobed Thara as a character. He was just as precious as Maia in Goblin Emperor in a different yet familiar way. 
The pace was one of the things that might have affected my enjoyment. It could have been faster at certain points. That’s pretty much my only complaint. Oh and I also could have done with just a glimpse of Maia as well 😅 But that’s about it. If you enjoyed Goblin Emperor and the world Addison built in that definitely pick this one up. The world gets expanded on and you get another character to root for in Witness of dead. Definitely recommended
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I loved the premise for this one, and the idea of the Witness for the Dead and the responsibility that brings. This was a fantastical murder mystery, with politics and cultural differences pressing in from all sides. However, it was not this aspect that hooked me into this book – but rather the character of Thara Celehar, the heart and soul of this book. It took me a little while to get used to him, but once he’d grown on me, I loved spending time with him. He was the focus, and I did find that the rest of the book got a little too meandering and caught up in details, and subplots in places, and it felt as though there was a little too much crammed into the book and it ended up detracting a little from the overall impact. However, overall this was an enjoyable read with a fantastic central character.
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This will be a short review because the book is good enough that I feel no particular need to take a long time saying so. The Goblin Emperor was a great book, and The Witness for the Dead carries on that tradition.

Addison’s world feels organic and immersive, even without large swathes of explanatory text detailing how honorifics and pronouns and affixes work within the society, and it’s glorious. (I'm one of those readers who is charmed by language and worldbuilding.) The mysteries our protagonist is set to solve are interesting and not excessively predictable and will appeal to folks who came for the mystery without repelling those who came for the fantasy. Happily, Addison refrains is a talented enough author to avoid the all-too-common trope of multiple mysteries all dovetailing into a single solution by the end of the story.

This is a great book. That’s really all I have to say.
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Seen as a sequel to The Goblin Emperor, The Witness for the Dead feels more of a companion book as we follow one of the side characters from the original book after the happenings of it. I wasn't sure how that would work, so many years after the release of the first one. But I should not have worried.

The Witness of the Dead follows Celehar as he works as a witness for the dead in the city of Almelo. His job is varied though it often comes with talking to the dead. When he touches a dead body he can gets bits from the last hours to weeks from the person, depending how long ago it was they died. Because of this he often speaks for the dead and their family when there is wrong doing. This could be fraud with a persons will but also murder. He investigates these cases. Not many like him for that. Least of all those that are in power of Almelo.

Celehar is a bit of an older mc though I'm not quite sure about his age. He's been in disgrace and then was all of a sudden a witness for the dead for the new and very young emperor as he asked him to look into the death of his father. It didn't give him any pride however. We follow his work and life and as he does he completely wormed his way into my heart. He only truly cares about doing the right thing and wanting to be left alone. I so very much understand that.

He cares for the neighborhood cats but understands their need for autonomy and their own ways. He doesn't seem to want to get attached to people but people do seem to get attached to him. There is Pel-Thenior, someone he meets throughout the course of his investigation into a murder. They have a (romantic?) pull towards one another that Celehar would rather ignore but Pel-Thenoir is just too present to walk around. They strike up a sort of friendship while he awkwardly gets introduced to the family as if he was a future partner.

This is a very slow moving novel that makes you embrace a character. That makes you want to root for him. I do feel I might not have had the same attachment to him if I hadn't known him from The Goblin Emperor. I saw there how others treated him and heard what he had gone through before. Knowing the world beforehand also helped. I already had a grasp on the world and the concept of the witness of the dead.
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This was such a fun addition to the world of the Goblin Emperor. Moving away from court politics this book follows Thara Celehar – The Witness for the Dead, a side character in The Goblin Emperor, in his life after the events of book one. Again, the worldbuilding is detialed, however not to the extent of the previous novel, where we follow Celehar’s day to day life as he tends to he petitioners.

The plot is more of a murder mystery this time, focusing on a few cases that have landed on Celehar’s lap. It was a really interesting mix of religious practice and police procedural (and I love good police procedural). The fact that there were multiple mysteries with various lines of inquiry with a few standing alone while others weaved and inter mingled was great. I was a little disappointed in the overall ending of the main investigation as it seemed a little abrupt but overall they were entertaining. This definitely has a lot faster pace too. We do spend let time lingering on little details but more time traveling and taking in the bigger picture. We end up with a really nice mixture of both that sets a good pace through the plot.

I found Celehar to be a lot more personable and relatable in this book. His compassion and dedication were awesome especially for someone like me who enjoys diving into all the details. I also liked the little bit of snark we got from his internal monologue. He was a very likeable character all round. There are not too many side characters we can mention as we do not spend enough time to really get to know many well as the invesitgation moves quickly. I did enjoy the relationship Celehar formed with the Opera writer and the pathologist (I forget the fantastical name).

While this is a companion novel and could be read as a standalone. I would recommed reading the Goblin Emperor first. Not only is it a fantastic read, but it also have a Glossary. This book is filled with Named things. There are lots of proper nouns, social stations, pronouns etc that could get a little confusing for those that haven’t visited this world before.
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