The Witness for the Dead

(The Goblin Emperor #2)

Hardcover, 208 pages

Published Jan. 6, 2021 by Tor Books.

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4 stars (5 reviews)

A standalone novel in the fantastic world of Katherine Addison's award-winning The Goblin Emperor.

When young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had killed his father and half-brothers in The Goblin Emperor, he turned to an obscure resident of his court, a Witness for The Dead named Thara Celehar.

Now, far from the court, Thara Celehar lives in quasi-exile, neither courtier nor prelate, serving the common people of the city. He lives modestly, communicating with the dead as is his duty.

But his decency and fundamental honesty will not permit him to live quietly. Celehar will follow the truth wherever it leads him no matter who may be implicated in murder, fraud, or ancient injustices.

2 editions

An ok fantasy/mystery.

3 stars

Addison does a wonderful job of world building. The slice of life moments in particular are great and Pel-Thenhior, the goblin director/composer is wonderful. Unfortunately the book has far too many subplots to give any of them the attention they deserve. There were also weird pacing issues and characters seem to do things so that reveals happen at the right time rather than for any organic or logical reason.

a beautiful world to exist in

4 stars

This was one of those books that when it ended, I missed getting to be in the world. It has a kind of understated, slice-of-life feel, with a lot of detail and reverence paid to the minutia of daily life and community relationships, that felt more prominent to me than the murder mysteries. Addison writes with an immense amout of compassion and tenderness, and for me that is what makes this book, and The Goblin Emperor, transcend what they would be on their face, in terms of plot.

The writing style drops you into the cultural nuances of the society largely without explanation, and you can infer, for example, what different honorifics mean through context. I really really like this and I think overall its very well done, but I think it would be more daunting if I hadn't already read The Goblin Emperor, and there were some …

Murder mystery with elves and goblins, and an opera!

4 stars

This novel doesn't follow the same character as The Goblin Emperor, but builds up that same world. It is a crime fiction in a fantasy setting and not a regular ole fantasy novel (you know, the ones that start with “Harry y'er a chosen one!”).

I really liked the main character, it made me think a lot of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee or Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael. He's a Witness For The Dead, as such he can “see” the last thoughts of the recently deceased, and he can fight ghuls. His “normal” cases relate mostly to ending inheritance disputes or finding tombstones, but sometimes, when an unknown, mysterious young woman washes up on the shore of the canal, he's called on to see what he can learn about her last moments… and if it shows that she was the victim of a murder, he's got to solve it. I …

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3 stars