Book Review: THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD by Katherine Addison

Title in white on black framed by orange leaves
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - companion book



Book cover for THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD: title in white on black above and orange poison bottle and surrounded by whte and orange decorative border

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his 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.

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 honesty will not permit him to live quietly.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


When I read THE GOBLIN EMPEROR in the winter, I was so glad to discover there was another book coming set in the same world. It’s such a fun, intricate world full of complex social structures and more religious sects than anyone knows how to manage. The main religious groups try to maintain their order while those left dealing with the dead – Witness but also mortuary workers and cemetery labourers – worry about getting the rites correct.

It is perfectly possible to read THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD without reading THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. They are companion books, and all reading in publication order will do for this book is to explain why Celehar has a bit of a reputation. Plus it will give you a different viewpoint on the world. This book is about the working class people, a more down to earth side of the world, while THE GOBLIN EMPEROR is about the nobility.

It’s a really nice way to expand the world, and it’s the side you often don’t see in fantasy. Commoners are often forgotten about in favour of the glittering courts (and the power and effect they can have on the world at large.) This is not a book about the fate of nations, but the lives of ordinary people. If Celehar wasn’t around, then the world at large would keep turning, but these people would not have justice.

Having now read all three books published under the pen name of Katherine Addison, I think one of characteristics of the author’s books is the way disparate stories are woven together linked only by the main character being involved in them all. Most stories weave all the elements into the finale, because it’s often more satisfying that way. It doesn’t feel like the a bunch of short stories popped into one package. However, the real strength in Addison’s work like in her ability to unite them into feeling cohesive and satisfying, despite the different elements not being linked.

For me, a part of that is how she uses the stories to build a sense of world, rather than using them to build scope and threat. Fast pacing and high tension is not her way – the various stories are not here to up the tension to cover for any pacing issues elsewhere. And, because the books can be read as, there is no sense that things are being set up for a later series instalment (which can feel cheap and like a waste of space.) That does not happen here.

I would like to think they we might get more books in this world, but I expect there might be a long wait, if at all.

Read my reviews of other books by Katherine Addison:

The Goblin Emperor (this series):



2 thoughts on “Book Review: THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD by Katherine Addison

  1. Oh, an interesting insight into her writing style, that she weaves disparate storylines together as a way to explore the world and characters rather than amp up the plot. That explains why her books are so compelling even though they seem meandering sometimes and definitely not fast-paced. I just love her characters so much, and was so glad to get to know Celehar better.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s