Monday, June 28, 2021

The Witness for the Dead (The Goblin Emperor #2), by Katherine Addison (author), Liam Gerrard (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250807892, June 2021

Thara Celehar is the Witness for the Dead that the goblin emperor Maia, in The Goblin Emperor, consulted concerning the deaths of his father and three half-brothers. A minor character in that story, he's the protagonist in this one.

Celehar is no longer at court; he's now in the distant city of Amalo, Witness for the Dead for the people of the city. It's a humbler but for him far more satisfying position. In this role, he can often really help ordinary people. He can identify the dead,  and often identify the cause of death. In one case brought to him, he's able to identify a deceased man's true heir, when at least one of the two competing wills is clearly forged.

The story revolves around several cases brought to him, which may or may not be related. An opera singer who wasn't liked by her colleagues is found murdered in what seems an unlikely part of town for her--and for all they dislike her, no one seems to have a motive strong enough to end in murder. The case of the forged will, mentioned above, seems simple at first, but has unexpected ramifications. The prince sends him off to deal with a ghoul that's tormenting one of the more remote towns. And the unexplained death of a young woman expecting her first child becomes the first hint that there's a serial killer at work.

Celehar sits in his tiny office every morning, awaiting petitioners asking him for help. Sometimes, he can help by pursuing his calling. Sometimes, he can help by telling the petitioners which office or prelate they should really be consulting. Sometimes, he can't help at all, but he always does his best.

Celehar is socially awkward, bad at picking up social cues, and not that great about abiding by social expectations of dress and adornment, in what is a rather rigid and regulated society. He doesn't make friends easily--except when he does, with people who are misfits in their own ways, or similarly unconcerned with the social judgments of others. Another review suggested that Celehar is a very good depiction of an autistic person in this rule-bound society, and I agree with that.

Like The Goblin Emperor, this is both an interesting blend of high fantasy and steampunk, and a deeply humane story in a genre where that's not necessarily what's expected.

I truly loved this. Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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