The Witness for the Dead (The Goblin Emperor #2) by Katherine Addison

My Five Word TL:DR Review : An excellent, character focused story

WitnessThe 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




12 Responses to “The Witness for the Dead (The Goblin Emperor #2) by Katherine Addison”

  1. pagesandtea

    Reading your review makes me a bit tempted to try this but I must admit that I started The Goblin Emperor last year, put it aside and just never went back to it for som reason. Probably bad timing or something and I’ve seen much praise for it since then so I’m thinking I should maybe it it another try. Would have to start from the beginning again though.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think this is quite different from the Goblin Emperor. The Goblin Emperor had a lot of court politics, the environment felt almost stifling and all the titles were perplexing. I love the characterisation though and that’s something that again stands out with this one. This is much more ‘real’. Its set out of court, in a city and we see the place in less than pleasant light. It’s grimy, with factories and docks, etc, This is more like a series of anecdotes that form a whole piece and feel like a snapshot of the MC’s life. Like spending a week with him. If you didn’t really get on with GE because of the above mentioned then this might work better for you.
      Lynn 😀

      • pagesandtea

        I think it was the perplexing titles that meant I didn’t get on with GE, but this one does still sound appealing to me, especially being set out in the city, and if I can pick this up without having read GE first then I might give it a try 🙂

  2. Tammy

    I’m anxious to read this, lovely review. Please send me more hours in the day so I can read more🤣

  3. Calmgrove

    After hearing such a lot of praise for it I really enjoyed much about The Goblin Emperor ( and though I haven’t gone in for multiple reads as some have I can see the attraction, especially when Addison said she wasn’t planning on a sequel.

    But she did, and here in the UK it soon will be! so I very much look forward to it, as yours and a couple of other reviews by bloggers I respect (like Ola’s at have already predisposed me to like it! Thank you.

  4. Ola G

    We seem to have reached similar conclusions regarding Celehar – I also think he is on the ASD spectrum and hats off to Addison to portray him in such a compassionate and understanding way. He comes off as vulnerable yet resilient, and very devoted to needs of others even when he has trouble understanding what they actually are. 😉
    My review’s up if you want to take a look! 🙂

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Starting this one today! Curious to see how I’ll do with it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a very easy book to read. I hope you love it.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison […]

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