The Witness for the Dead Review

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison can be considered book two in her Goblin Emperor series. However, this book can be considered standalone as well because knowledge of the previous book is not required. The author quickly rose to fame with The Goblin Emperor and fans were quite excited to see what comes next. I’m happy to say that The Witness for the Dead more than meets my expectation. The weird thing though is it didn’t really start off that way. It wasn’t until a bit later I realized how brilliant this book is.

…people often solved their own problems, if you simply listened to them well enough.

Thara Celehar

We follow in the footsteps of Thera Celehar, a disgraced gay cleric of the elven race who has the ability to literally semi communicate with the dead. He uses this calling of his to help petitioners. What took me by surprise almost immediately is the structure and tone of the story. From what I can remember of The Goblin Emperor, the story was surrounded and steeped heavily in court politics and intrigue. I had expected much the same here but what I got in return is something totally different. Personally, I was not drawn in when I started mainly due to my disappointment. However, as I continued to read, I noticed that although the story was unfolding quite slowly, I found myself turning page after page. I literally couldn’t stop but I didn’t exactly know why until it dawned on me much later.

The Witness for the Dead revolves around Thara trying to solve a couple of unrelated mysterious deaths in the city of Amalo while fighting his own battles as well. While he has the ability to somewhat communicate with the dead, Thara does not go from place to place doing just so. We don’t witness life stories of the deceased through Thara’s ability. In fact, that’s not what I feel the story is about. The beauty I realized afterwards is how somber the tone of this book really is. Thara does his job as a cleric to the best of his ability as he tries to help wherever or whomever he can seemingly at the expense to his own health. His determination to find justice for the dead makes me root for him that much more. The world building is amazing although there were many times when the titles and names of individual can be confusing and hard to read. One wish I had with The Goblin Emperor was hoping to get a glimpse of the outside world and surroundings. It was a story that took place mainly in the court. Here, Thara’s journey takes us to multiple locations and we get to witness some of the many customs of the mostly elven and goblin race. The conclusion to the two main mysteries were solved and concluded a bit too sudden towards the end but I honestly thought that it was really the journey that we’ve taken with Thara Celehar throughout it all that really shined.

“Murder is no respecter of rank.”

Thara Celehar

To put it simply, I needed this book more than the book needed me. It is refreshing to read about someone being so dedicated to their calling and being able to perform their duties day in and day out without hardly any complaint. Add to that how Thara is doing it with hardly any substantial pay from his government makes the reader reflect on their own personal lives. What good are we doing to help out others in our own community? How can we provide comfort to absolute strangers? Although the story can be considered depressing, it can also provide for hope and determination.


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