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The Witness for the Dead

(The Cemeteries of Amalo #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  6,850 ratings  ·  1,174 reviews
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 t
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 22nd 2021 by Tor Books
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Slmstanley Because those in certain industries (booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, etc) are often given advance copies of novels so that they can provide e…moreBecause those in certain industries (booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, etc) are often given advance copies of novels so that they can provide early reviews for potential readers, as well as deciding whether or not to order a title. I am currently reading three Advance Reader Copies so that I can make library purchasing decisions. (less)

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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  6,850 ratings  ·  1,174 reviews

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Mayim de Vries
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“A terrible result does not always have a terrible cause.”

We would like to befriend Othala Celehar. He is our new favourite everyday hero. A cat-feeding, ghoul banishing kind of hero. What more could one ask for?

Witness of the Dead is not an occupation, it is more of a religious calling that necessitates certain abilities. The tasks involve everything from performing funerals to speaking with the dead (or, more accurately, empathising with them) to murderer hunting with occasional undead banishm
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
A society of elves and goblins mixed with a murder mystery/detective story, investigated by a shy, gay, and kind elf.

Final review! First posted on FantasyLiterature.com:

The Witness for the Dead is the long-hoped-for sequel to Katherine Addison’s marvelous and unusual 2014 fantasy, The Goblin Emperor, in which we met Maia, a half-goblin, half-elf young man who unexpectedly inherited the throne of the elf kingdom when his father, the emperor, was killed along with his brothers in an airship explo
Margaret Rogerson
Loved this. All my thanks to my agent and the wonderful people at Tor for the opportunity to read it early. At first I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as much as The Goblin Emperor, but it fully grabbed me by about 1/3 of the way through and left me with the same feelings of warmth and hope for humanity. Reading Goblin Emperor first isn't necessary, though I do recommend it. I've preordered and am already looking forward to re-reading. ...more
Rebecca Roanhorse
Delightful. I may have loved this one more than its predecessor, as this was much more in the vein of a pure detective novel and the other was political intrigue with a dash of mystery. Once again, these books always seem to come to me when I'm stressed out and I need someone good to cheer for. This book had some nice worldbuilding and a story with medium to low stakes but still a handful of murders. Add to that a dash of opera, a plethora of teahouses, a few truly creepy nights with ghouls and ...more
I finally decided to read this, and I am so glad I did!

After The Angel of the Crows, I was afraid this sequel to The Goblin Emperor would be disappointing, but I was wrong. It was nearly as good. Thara Celehar is a much better character here than in the first book.

The mystery part of the book is less interesting to me, but still good. All in all, I am really looking forward to The Grief of Stones. I'm really looking forward to it.

If you enjoyed The Goblin Emperor, definitely pick this one up. It
Para (wanderer)
ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.

It’s always difficult when one of your most anticipated releases of the year turns out to be a complete disappointment. I had a little warning, fellow fans of The Goblin Emperor disappointed, my experience with The Angel of the Crows tempering my expectations, I knew it was not a true sequel and different…but I did expect a certain degree of craft that just wasn’t there in the end.

The story follows Thara Celehar, a witness fo
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2021-shelf
I got the ARC! So of course I had to re-read Goblin Emperor to get myself prepared for the sequel.

BUT. It's not really necessary to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one. I mean, sure, we get to know the cleric Witness for the Dead in the first book, but only in the capacity for solving the overall mystery.

This sequel does not have the same cohesive worldbuilding and plot as the first, but that's all right, too. What we should expect is a continuation of the humanist feel, an
Loved the first book, The Goblin Emperor, in this series so much that I read it twice, the second time in audio. Can't wait for this one to be released.

* * * * *

This is a quiet, thoughtful, sobering read that's in stark contrast to the noise and unrest all around right now. The writing is calming and deeply moving in a way that's hard to define. It doesn't make me want to dig into it to figure out what makes it work or why it is the way it is, and I'm fine with that for now. I don't want to ruin
Mogsy (MMOGC)
Jun 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/06/29/...

The Witness for the Dead is marketed as a standalone sequel to Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, but to tell the truth, it’s more of a separate story rather than a direct continuation. The story follows protagonist Thara Celehar, who holds the titular role of Witness for the Dead, or someone who has the ability to speak to the recently deceased. Sometimes, he may even glean the final moments of their life—what they
Jul 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Witness for the Dead is to The Goblin Emperor what Cranford is to Great Expectations. Addison's first book in this world was a coming-of-age with big players and big stakes. Her second is scaled down considerably: it's set in a smaller city far away from the capital; the events, even the murders and scandals and politicking, are local in scale and somewhat picaresque in structure. The protagonist is middle-aged, melancholic prelate Thara Celehar, whose title and duty are the same: witness fo ...more
Di Maitland
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 ag
Ola G
Jun 22, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
6.5/10 stars

My full review can be found on my blog.


I’ve read The Goblin Emperor ages ago and while I enjoyed it, I also had a few choice words to say about the things that I felt didn’t work so well. Ah, those were the days when my tongue was very sharp indeed and my tolerance much lower than it is today 😉

Having read Addison’s The Angel of the Crows more recently (and finding that book so bad that I only wrote a short GR review for it) I approached The Witness for the Dead with certain tre
Jul 24, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqiap-rep
never thought i'd be this comforted while reading about an exhausted, overworked, sad, lonely gay elven clergyman dealing with gruesome deaths but here we are. there's just something very soft and optimistic about katherine addison's writing and i'm absolutely eating it up. ...more
Allison Hurd
Jul 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fem-author, fantasy
I truly loved the meandering little tale of the Goblin Emperor. This was strange because it was not at all what I expected but also follows the spirit fairly well. I don't think it will wear the same spot into my heart, but I'm glad to have read it.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-Earnestness. Once again the main character and his confidants are just...good people. You just want
The Captain
Jun 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

The first book of this series the goblin emperor is one of me favourite comfort reads.  This be a standalone book set in the same world so ye don't have to read them in order but I do recommend it.

This novel does not have the same feel of scope or political intrigue as its predecessor.  What is does still have is a character ye love to root for and find comfort
Oct 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 wh
The Witness for the Dead is Addison’s follow-up to her enormously popular Goblin Emperor. Here, she takes a bit character from her epic fantasy novel and whisks him to a faraway town where Prelate Thara Celahar talks to the Dead, getting to the bottom of what happened to them, particularly when it’s an angry opera singer found floating in a canal. Although most other readers have found much to rejoice in with this new novel, perhaps reading Goblin Emperor first helps to lay a foundation and back ...more
Addison still got it! Great murder mystery with a unique setting and an endearing and loveable main character.
I had never been to the Vermilion Opera before - the ticket prices, even for the cheapest seats, were far beyond my meager budget. I was unprepared for the rich vermilion walls of the lobby and could only be grateful there was no one to see me standing there as stunned as a fish. The lobby was vast and its color, combined with its cavernous vault, intensified my impression of being caught in the jaws of some monstrous beast. I started toward the ticket office at one end of the lobby, uneasily aw ...more
L.L. MacRae
Sep 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book!! Last year, I read The Goblin Emperor, and it was one of my favourite books of the year.

In my review, I called The Goblin Emperor:

“A fantastic read for anyone who wants a break from the grim darks, sprawling epics, and thrilling adventures. It’s a quieter story but no less impactful.

Really, really good book. Fabulous ending, pacing, characters, and it made me extremely happy to read.”

It’s much the same with the sequel. It’s a short book at just over 300 pages, but I tried
Nina  ✳ The Shadow Dancer ✳

I don't know whether to scream my lungs out or roll on the floor out of happiness, I think I'm going to cry...
Aug 14, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I adored everything about The Goblin Emperor: the coming-of-age story of the young Emperor seeking to find his place in the world, the Machiavellian court politics, and the intricate worldbuilding. Although Witness for the Dead was set in the same world and features a minor character from the first book, I didn’t find it nearly as compelling. Whereas I would characterize The Goblin Emperor as a YA fantasy novel, Addison’s new story is a cozy mystery about a melancholy middle-aged prelate. The Wi ...more
Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany)
Sep 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
3.5 stars rounded up

The Witness for the Dead is a short novel following Celehar, a side character from The Goblin Emperor, as he investigates murders and takes down ghouls as part of his job as a Witness for the Dead. It's a very different sort of book from The Goblin Emperor, but not in a bad way.

Celehar is a quiet, tea-drinking gay man who wants to fly under the radar but instead becomes drawn into complicated situations. I enjoyed this and found the mysteries interesting, although I do thin
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
Katherine Addison is a master of storytelling and I'm in awe of her characterization skills.

The book as a whole isn't perfect, but the flaws - a structure somewhat disjointed at times, mostly - grow dim in the face of its undeniable strengths. I cannot wait to read the sequel.
Lisa Wolf
Thara Celehar is the Witness for the Dead of this book’s title. He’s gifted with the ability to find out the truth of a death by making contact with the deceased’s body. He says a prayer of compassion, then asks the dead to answer questions. Sometimes, it’s too late, and there’s no one left in the body to answer the query. But sometimes, he’s able to get answers or at least an impression of the person’s last moments. He then bears witness for the dead person, testifying to what he’s learned in o ...more
Jun 02, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Those looking for a return trip to the Machiavellian intrigue of Addison's The Goblin Emperor may find themselves disappointed here. The world's the same, but the genre has completely changed. This is a detective story involving one Thara Celehar, a figure who held a small role in the original tale and is consulted for his ability to sense the final thoughts and intents of those who have recently expired. He will clear up the matter of a Will, for example, by touching a corpse to receive its new ...more
Aug 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a ripping good story. It’s a very
enjoyable read.

It’s set in the same steampunk, elven and goblin universe as The Goblin Emperor,
but is a very different sort of story. A fantasy whodunit.

The endless succession of weird names,
titles, and place names was similar to those I complained about
in The Goblin Emperor, but for some
reason didn’t bother me as much here.
It mostly started to make sense after awhile.
And Katherine Addison is skilled at
showing rather then telling.

(Here’s my review of
I have wanted more of this world ever since the very second I finished the last sentence of The Goblin Emperor. This book follows a very different class of people, in a completely different city, and we get to see how this one part of the elvish empire operates at ground level. Which is very cool! I loved how grounded this book felt in details like the second hand clothes economy and the types of cheap food available at tea houses. Like The Goblin Emperor, this book touches on tensions between ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was deeply disappointed by this book.

I didn't like the fact that there were two separate, unrelated murder-mystery plots running in parallel, and I didn't like the way in which the more focal of those two was resolved very abruptly right at the end of the book by what amounted to co-incidence.

I didn't think that Amalo was as interesting a setting as the Untheileneise court, I didn't find the secondary characters as compelling as those in The Goblin Emperor and I didn't find Celehar to be as we
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A pseudonym of Sarah Monette. Both Sarah and Katherine are on Twitter as @pennyvixen. Katherine reviews nonfiction. Sarah reviews fiction. Fair warning: I read very little fiction these days.

Sarah/Katherine was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the three secret cities of the Manhattan Project.

She got her B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, her M.A. and Ph.D. from the Universi

Other books in the series

The Cemeteries of Amalo (3 books)
  • The Grief of Stones  (The Cemeteries of Amalo, #2)
  • The Tomb of Dragons (The Cemeteries of Amalo, #3)

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