Cover Image: The Witness for the Dead

The Witness for the Dead

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed The Witness for the Dead. The setting is unique and the story compelling. The protagonist is driven to do his best and he uses his mind as much as his ability to listen to the recently deceased. The multiple plot lines are intricately interwoven, hard to guess but satisfyingly concluded. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
<b>4.25 stars. This is basically a cozy mystery... but fantasy, and I am delightfully charmed.</b> I didn't expect to enjoy this slow, quiet story so much!

<b>I like it much more than the first book, <i>The Goblin Emperor</i>. These two are wildly different in terms of plot. The murder mystery aspect of this drew me in, but they share the same universe and the same type of protagonist: a quiet, kind man who maintains his benevolence and dignity even in the face of tragedy. Both are technically standalones.</b> You don't need to read the first novel to understand this, although it will allow you a better grasp of the setting.

The story is quite straightforward. Thara is a Witness for the Dead, a public cleric-slash-servant who presides over funerary rites and matters of the deceased. Oh, and he also solves murders, because he can touch a corpse and glean their final memories. But don't expect a fast-paced, action-packed thriller; it's a medium-paced story that's just about Thara's relationships with the citizens, and the lives of the deceased victims, as it is about solving the crimes.

Wholesome. This book is wholesome. If you want the type of mystery that values the victim rather than the killer, then this is it.

Thara himself is also immensely likeable. He's a quiet, unconventional protagonist; a man who sticks by his duty and doesn't care for glory. Soft-spoken, an excellent listener, often pushed around but stands up for the denizens under his protection. <b>He's also gay, so I love the casual rep, but there is no central romance here.</b> I actually want to know more about his backstory, which is only hinted on, but maybe that was in <i>Emperor</i>. Idk.

The names are pretty confusing but the worldbuilding is otherwise delightful. Grand in scope, thoughtful, but not overwhelming. <b>Addison's universe is impeccably <i>human</i></b>, warm and lived in, believable.

I only wish it had sped up at times, and that's why I won't give it a full 5 stars. <b>But it's highly recommended if you want a subtle, cozy, character-driven story.</b>

<i>Thank you to Desirae of Tor Books and NetGalley for inviting me to view this ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>
Was this review helpful?
Sequel to The Goblin Emperor, but this time following the cleric who speaks to the dead as he navigates a hostile ecclesiastical environment, investigates several different deaths, and (much against his inclination) makes a few friends. Like the first book, the goodheartedness of the narrator, despite his learned mistrust, makes this a relatively gentle story even when murder and other nastiness is involved.
Was this review helpful?
<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author has been a personal friend for, wow, let's not count how many years.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>This is in the same world as <em>The Goblin Emperor</em>, and it takes place soon after it, but it's not a sequel per se. We already know Thara Celehar, a bit: he's the Witness for the Dead who found the truth about the previous emperor. But this book takes Celehar somewhere quieter, somewhere completely new. Somewhere no less surrounded by death and doom, but y'know, that's the life of a Witness for the Dead.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>This is a murder mystery with strong fantastical elements. The deaths and lives Celehar is trying to witness tangle themselves around each other, each piece leading to another. There are cemetery ghouls rather than court etiquette, and the main role of airships is...not healthy for those near them...but the essential goodness of the Celehar himself, and of some though not all of the people he encounters keep this book very much buoyed up.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>There's so much scope for characterization and worldbuilding here, and Addison uses both to their utmost. The world of the opera and how this world's ideas of race change who gets to do what; domestic violence and family grief; a very shy person realizing, tentatively, that he can have friends, that though he faces opposition he also has support. I love all these elements so much.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->

<!-- wp:paragraph -->
<p>One of the great virtues of mystery novels can be good people making sense of the world, and that's here, that's very much here--along with the potential for so much more to follow. Highly recommended. Here if you want to squee about it.</p>
<!-- /wp:paragraph -->
Was this review helpful?
The Goblin Emperor was a thing to cherish; a fantasy of manners is already a rare enough beast, but it was also a stand-alone novel in a genre where trilogies and longer are the norm. As such, while the thought of revisiting that world is obviously tempting, the news that a sequel was coming had to be received with a note of caution. Mercifully, this is no direct continuation, no threat to the reign of the first book's protagonist Maia, nor tacked-on quest for him to complete. Rather, the focus shifts to a supporting character, Thara Celehar, the eponymous Witness for the Dead – a hybrid priest-detective who, through an ability to attain limited communion with the recently deceased, can assist in the investigation of their demise. And for much of the time, this plays out like the classic detective novel its title might suggest. An opera singer's body has been found in the river, but she didn't drown; plenty of colleagues, patrons and others had reason to dislike her, but did any of them hate her enough to kill her? Celehar's investigation faces interference, including from his own superiors (or possible superiors – his own uncertain place in the hierarchy is part of the problem, as is the nature of his past disgrace, and even the faction-political implications of his subsequent return to imperial favour). But of course, though one can sometimes forget it, he isn't just a detective solving murders and the occasional dispute over a will – he might equally be called to officiate at a funeral, and though I'm no expert on Golden Age crime fiction, I'm going to go out on a limb and say there are no Agatha Christies where the investigation has to go on hold for a while so the lead can go and lay an undead uprising in a remote mining town. A detour which could easily have felt like a distraction, but instead just makes the book's world feel that little bit more solid, as do the profusion of sects and teas and honorifics the characters must negotiate (or, at times, pointedly dismiss). In the only Addison novel I've read outside this setting, Angel Of The Crows, the sheer range of supernatural elements bolted on to a Sherlock pastiche could sometimes feel like a novice gamesmaster wanting to throw in every cool idea they'd found in all their sourcebooks. Here, I never for a second doubted any detail of what I was being told; the world in the book is like this because that's the way it is, obviously. To the extent that I want to describe details of ecclestiasical etiquette in a church that doesn't exist, or the nuanced descriptions of how the cast of elves and goblins hold their ears at difficult moments, as 'finely observed'. In that sense, for all the change of lead and location, this is a book which shares much with its predecessor. Without the parallels ever feeling forced, or the situations being close enough that it becomes a retread, this is again a moving story in which a lonely, decent protagonist, somewhat stranded in a role with very particular expectations, feels his way in fits and starts to a life in which he can feel at home.

(Netgalley ARC)
Was this review helpful?
[Gifted] 
This is a murder mystery about a detective who can read the thoughts of the newly dead through their bodies/possessions, investigating the death of an opera singer. It's set in a fantasy world of goblins and elves, but that doesn't come into the plot too much - it's pretty character focussed. 
This is set in the world of one of my comfort reads, The Goblin Emperor, which is a feel-good, kindness-focussed look at a disliked new emperor winning the support of his courtiers through being an honest and kindhearted leader (he's also a goblin).
I was hoping this novel would tie in more to that world, but it's set in a different city with only one character from the prequel - so you can read this as a standalone novel. If you like your high fantasy to be hopefully and optimistic, I can't recommend this series highly enough. It's one I'll keep returning to for many years to come.
Was this review helpful?