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The Cemeteries of Amalo #2

The Grief of Stones

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In The Grief of Stones, Katherine Addison returns to the world of The Goblin Emperor with a direct sequel to The Witness For The Dead...

Celehar’s life as the Witness for the Dead of Amalo grows less isolated as his circle of friends grows larger. He has been given an apprentice to teach, and he has stumbled over a scandal of the city—the foundling girls. Orphans with no family to claim them and no funds to buy an apprenticeship. Foundling boys go to the Prelacies; foundling girls are sold into service, or worse.

At once touching and shattering, Celehar’s witnessing for one of these girls will lead him into the depths of his own losses. The love of his friends will lead him out again.

245 pages, Hardcover

First published June 14, 2022

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About the author

Katherine Addison

16 books2,796 followers
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 University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite being summa cum laude, none of her degrees is of the slightest use to her in either her day job or her writing, which she feels is an object lesson for us all.

She currently lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 606 reviews
Profile Image for Collin.
970 reviews31 followers
June 23, 2022
sometimes a book is both a book and an antidepressant

Actual review, now that I've read it: [through tears] sometimes a book is both a book and an antidepressant

Sometimes it feels like books are written specifically to suit your tastes, and that's the case with the Cemeteries of Amalo. There was a very specific hole in my heart where I've been waiting for a depressed queer person of faith to fit in neatly and heal my grievances, and that's where Thara Celehar lives now. The worldbuilding is delightful, some of Thara's sidequests are everything I didn't know I wanted (The Case of the Missing Scone Recipe is my favorite), and Thara's relationship with others and with his god are [chef's kiss]. It really means so much to me to have a story with a religious character that isn't about his faith getting comprehensively broken down until he is no longer religious or puts his faith in some nebulous concept of "~people~" or "~the universe~" or "~himself~" instead, even in the face of tragedy and homophobia and what is clearly severe mental distress.

Now I'm just going to pretend that Cemeteries of Amalo is not a planned trilogy and instead will continue on for years and years so I never have to let Thara Celehar go.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews824 followers
August 12, 2022
On a cloudy autumn day, I attended the execution of Broset Shveldar.

I am wildly happy that The Goblin Emperor was an excuse to start a new, fascinating series. With an opening sentence like that, you immediately find yourself immersed in the story; a story that is equally unremarkable and unique at the same time. An average in how crime mystery meets undead but also unique because of the setting and the main protagonist, and the way it is told.

We are Thara Celehar, a Witness for the Dead

A short, slight of build, shabby of appearance, and grave of countenance detective priest—or maybe city official, depending how you prefer to look at it—investigates crimes, mysteries, and other dead related puzzles. Remember this heavenly pie recipe like non other your late grandma took with her to the other side? Thara can help. That is if he is not busy banishing ghouls.

Because there is always some dead-related problem in the vast city of Amalo, whose dearly departed often have unfinished business. Like before, we get to traverse its nooks and crooks, although in this volume, Amalo reveals new faces: a university, photographic studios, and boarding schools. And yes, some forgotten ancient tombs.

With its appreciation of small things, The Cemeteries of Amalo reminds me of another favourite series of mine: Sailing to Sarantium in how it is putting together a string of beads that might be unremarkable on their own, but together create something valuable and beautiful. The cadence of the story is built of small, unprepossessing elements, some of them gems in their own right, some others just trivial trinkets. However, when taken in as a whole, they surprise a reader with an intricate and profound picture.

At the same time, Ms Addison managed to avoid something many others stumbled upon: permutational writing. In theory, this kind of crime story can be extended to eternity (and beyond). A problem I had with the novels of the Malazan Empire, that started going in circles in a never-ending vortex of the same characters, tales, and tropes. A smart writer that she is, not only does she introduce elements that enrich the story (an apprentice, you say?), but also does not shy away from drastic changes that inevitably change the settings thereby pushing the main arc forward. What Thara goes through in this volume is brutal but also necessary, and I was very impressed with the developments, even though they arrive at a measured pace.

Undoubtedly a comfort read, one of those books which are awaited with longing and greeted like old friends when they arrive.

The only grief is that it was too short. Highly recommended.

It all started in: The Goblin Emperor ★★★★★

Also in the Series:
1. The Witness for the Dead ★★★★☆
3. [come out, I know you're there]
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,220 reviews224 followers
May 28, 2022
Even in a fantastical world of goblins, elves, and dragon slayers (even if it was only one, and more a question of saving a goldmine than slaying a dragon), people die – and worse, people murder.

Enter Thara Celehar, Witness for the Dead, who will speak to the deceased he can reach, whether it’s to solve murders, settle inheritance disputes, or even locate a secret and much-prized scone recipe. It’s all in a day’s work when you’re the only Witness for your city.

Katherine Addison first introduced Celehar in her award-winning The Goblin Emperor, before following up with his own sequel, The Witness for the Dead. The Grief of Stones follows directly on from that, continuing his adventures in a world cunningly drawn to be both wildly fantastic and comfortingly mundane. I mentioned dragons, but the dead are a more present aspect; if bodies are buried without names and the appropriate ceremonies, too close to a particularly hated rival, or their graves neglected after burial, then they’re not just about to lie down and take it. These dead will rise, and they’ll be after the living. It adds an entirely new dimension to dealing with death, grief, and the rituals that surround both – and Katherine Addison makes it feel entirely logical and real.

The real trick with these novels is the way the reader is dropped into the middle of an entirely new world, one with intricate, almost courtly, social expectations, and yet the author has you understanding it within a couple of chapters, without simply explaining it to you. Instead, context leads to understanding, and the day-to-day nature of life in such a fantastical setting encourages the reader to feel at home and comfortable. Celehar frequents teahouses, feeds stray cats, and cares deeply about doing the right thing; I found him very easy to trust, and despite a focus on death The Grief of Stones is anything but grim.

As for the mystery aspect, readers will not be disappointed. There’s a central intrigue, but Celehar sees a number of petitioners for his services, and each has their own case with a story that may be minor in the scope of the novel, but is shown as mattering deeply to them. One is a matter of a single word – another is a family tragedy that we catch only a brief glimpse of. It’s a very effective way of showing small moments of a much wider world, while keeping the potential for stories from running away with the plot.

The Grief of Stones is an excellent third entry in an absolutely wonderful series. Katherine Addison has got me completely hooked!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
425 reviews180 followers
July 12, 2022
Murder. Corpses. Revenants. Scones.

Scones? Definitely scones. Life is better with scones, and so is The Grief of Stones.

If you liked The Witness for the Dead, there's no reason you won't like this one and its distinctive combination of immersive worldbuilding, coziness, and death. Picking up right where the last book left off, it once again features Thara Celehar - humble, principled, and slightly broken Witness for the Dead - who moves quietly through the private tragedies of ordinary people, solving small mysteries and bringing what closure he can. Around him, the city of Amalo springs to life: tea shops and brothels, funerary rituals and academic squabbles. Also bakeries (and a side mystery featuring scones which is, obviously, my favorite).

It's not all sweetness and light. Thara is still fighting his own demons, and in investigating wrongdoings in a boarding school that he has not, strictly, been asked to witness for, he finds himself in real danger. But there's also true friendship that holds up through the worst of times and an ending that, while bittersweet, is also emotionally rich and satisfying.

Quibbles: I'm not a mystery reader, and even I can tell that these are not great or clever mysteries. One involves a poisonous plant that kills in a minute flat when ingested. As your resident grumpy botanist with an unhealthy love of poisonous plants, I'm here to tell you that this is extremely unlikely. It takes time to absorb poisons through your digestive tract, and most substances aren't even absorbed in the stomach but have to wait until they get to the intestines hours later. (I actually asked a toxicologist about this at the last poisonous plant talk I attended, so I feel like I'm on solid ground here.)

Also, the names kind of suck, as they always do in this universe, and if I could make one change to this book, I would add a Dramatis Personae with every name plus every variation / added title, instead of desperately flipping backward every so often to try to figure out who was who.

Ultimately, these are minor quibbles. I'm completely charmed by the unassuming Thara and his adoptive city, and I'll read as many books about either/both as Katherine Addison wants to write. They're much smaller in scale than The Goblin Emperor, but also more intimate, and I'm actually finding Thara and his past trauma to be more interesting than the blank slate Maia, even though we know Thara isn't going to go over to the dark side.

There are very few books that restore my faith in people's ability to do the right thing, even when it is also the hardest thing, but this is one of them. 4.5 stars, rounding up.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
June 3, 2022
Like The Goblin Emperor and The Witness for the Dead, the story is full of rich fantasy worldbuilding that serves the purpose of an extended Cozy Mystery.

That being said, if you like sedate, rich fantasy that handles the little things and almost entirely the little things -- until it gets to the one big thing -- then this is definitely gonna be your kind of book.

This one doesn't disappoint. Indeed, I may have really enjoyed the small stuff better than the one big mystery. That one was rather rough, emotionally, and seeing justice be done was rather pressing for me.

I get it. Having this bit of realism, no matter how horrible, is necessary for these kinds of books, but it does take away from the reality of escapism. My initial reaction was... "oh hell no, no, no, I read these kinds of books to escape the horrors of reality, not realize that there is no escape... anywhere."

But then I remembered the kind of racism and nastiness that was inherent in the first book and I knew it was all of a similar vein.

My only complaint is that I felt a certain lack of urgency and conflict, aside from the big one, but this IS still a Cozy Mystery.
Profile Image for Janine Ballard.
491 reviews57 followers
June 29, 2022
1 star

June 29, 2022

I was a huge fan of The Goblin Emperor but not as keen on The Witness for the Dead, the first book in the spinoff Cemeteries of Amalo series about detective/priest/medium-of-sorts Thara Celehar. Hope springs eternal, though, so I requested book two in that series, The Grief of Stones.

Set in Amalo, the same steampunkish industrial city where its prequel takes place, The Witness for the Dead, The Grief of Stones opens when Thara is called to the home of the elderly Marquess Ulzhavel. Ulzhavel would like Thara to find out whether the death of his wife, Tomilo Ulzhavel, was brought on by a coronary as it appeared to have been or whether she was killed by whoever left the threatening note Ulzhavel recently found among her possessions.

Thara is stumped–Tomilo was much beloved and involved in helping fund and run charities and there doesn’t appear to be anyone who might have wished her harm. Additionally, it’s too late for him to communicate with the dead woman; too much time has passed.

He does, however, have a few people to aid him—his friend Anora, a clergyman at the cemetery, offers moral support; Ulzhavel’s grand-nephew, who happens to be the Master of the Mortuary, agrees to perform an autopsy; and Thara is given a new apprentice, a widow who has recently discovered her calling to speak to the dead, Othalo Tomasin.

(Waiting in the wings is Iana Pel-Thenhior, the opera director Thara befriended in The Witness for the Dead. Thara and Pel-Thenhior are sympatico and could perhaps be more than friends, but Thara is still recovering from the devastating and tragic execution of a lover he was forced to testify against and their society is inimical to queer relationships, so he holds back.)

In the course of his investigation into the marquise’s death, Thara stumbles on another mystery. He is calling on the headmistress of a school for foundling girls when one of the girls slips him a note begging for help.

All this seemed like something that could amount to a good book but my hopes didn’t pan out. Thara is sympathetic but also self-contained; there is a subdued tone to his first-person narration that likely stems from his trauma—his response was to shut down. Unfortunately it made his story seem muted and dry.

Generally speaking, in the hundred-plus pages I read, the characters lacked nuance. The writing is so detailed that the it gives them a lifelike quality and there’s a sense that the author took care with them, but most of the new characters are people Thara either extends his kindness to or whom his gut instinct warns him he won’t like, and they inevitably live up or down to these expectations. There’s very little about them to surprise the reader.

There’s a lot of dense worldbuilding in this series (in my review of The Witness for the Dead, I quoted my husband’s pithy statement “You shouldn’t need a Rosetta stone to read a book”). I feel there needs to be a balance between the complexity of the worldbuilding and how compelling the story is. The more page-turning or satisfying a story is, the more the effort to understand the world is made easier and/or rewarding. Though I was more familiar with the city of Amalo this time (and after reading The Goblin Emperor four times I have a good grasp on the titles and forms of address in this world), the mystery of the noblewoman’s death was less absorbing than the one about the body found in the river at the beginning of The Witness for the Dead. The same detailed worldbuilding I loved in The Goblin Emperor becomes a heavy drag on my ability to focus when I’m less invested in the story arc.

I’ve also realized that in the fantasy genre I want more than a mystery set in a fantasy world. I want to see the main character gain agency, either personal or political (in the fantasy genre the two are often intertwined). If that is happening here, then only at a glacial pace. I read over a hundred pages of this novella and they felt like two hundred. At 42% I decided to call it a DNF.

May 31, 2022

If you are interested in a 14-page glimpse of this world and of Thara, Min Zemerin's Plan, a free short story can be found in the Sunday Morning Transport and I liked it enough to give 3.75 stars. It’s about Min Zemerin, a governess whose charge, an illegitimate twelve-year-old girl, has just lost her father. Min Zemerin must seek out Thara so he can convey an important question to the dead man.

May 2

Finished reading, or rather, put this down as a DNF. See review above.

August 30, 2021

I assume this is more about Thara Celehar (the author said she'd write more about him) and for all the problems I had with The Witness for the Dead, I love Thara as a character and want him to find happiness with Pel-Thenhior (seriously, Addison, get these two together, Thara needs some joy in his life). And I loved The Goblin Emperor so much, and hold out hope that if not Maya then one of the other characters--Csevet, Csethiro, Idra, the archprelate, or Min Nedaö Vechin, who, as an opera singer, is surely a natural fit here--will make an appearance in this book. So I'll absolutely read it.
Profile Image for Mimi.
694 reviews190 followers
September 21, 2022
These books are quickly becoming my all-time favorite fantasy series and Thara Celehar, my all-time favorite reluctant hero. Reluctant but not disgruntled or misanthropic. He's just got a lot of things he's carrying around and needs to work through, but he's a profoundly good person through and through. With a character like this, the writing could have easily ended up either too maudlin or saccharine or both, and yet it is neither and that is an amazing feat.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,196 reviews2,583 followers
July 29, 2022
*** 4.44 ***

I love the gentle cadence of the way this author tells a story! Makes a very simple plot into a great experience because of the characters and the main POV's likability. I hope we have many more books in this world! 🙂
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,073 reviews371 followers
June 14, 2022
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  While I try to post no spoilers, this be a direct sequel to the witness for the dead so proceed at yer own peril . . .

As soon as I heard there was another book featuring Celehar, I knew I had to read it.  And I was not disappointed.  I love him.  This book continues the day-to-day life of Celehar and that continues to be the highlight for me.  There is also the addition of Othala Tomasarin, a Witness in training, and their solving more crimes as well as helping the common folk.  Celehar is still dealing with the trauma of his past and learning to open up to friendships. 

It is truly hard to express the complexity of these books and yet how easy and compelling they are to read.  The novels are character driven but I am still in awe of how the world building is wrapped into the story.  The more I learn about the politics and nuances of the city, the more I want.  I appears that there will be another book about Celehar given the way the book ended.  At least I hope so!  I need to know where Celehar is going to go from here.

This book should not be read as a standalone.  I believe both prior books are necessary to read before this one.  That said, if ye loved those then this one is likely to float yer boat too.  Arrr!
Profile Image for Kyle Erickson.
376 reviews160 followers
July 8, 2022
This book was good, much better than the previous, I think it's because the main character had more development by this point and the mystery was better done. Celehar is also given an apprentice and the banter and character dynamics between the two is fun. This book is fun, and I would recommend it to people who want a mystery set in a fantasy setting.

I have reconciled with myself, after three books in this universe, that I just despise the names. I hate them. Sorry, Katherine Addison, they are needless complex and confusing. Especially listening to a mystery on audio, I just never have any concept of who any character is. Which is a problem for a mystery because reveals and twists mean nothing. "Oh wow, it's Belmforahingseringpolis!" but I don't remember who the hell Belmforahingseringpolis is or why that's surprising. So I will probably refrain from reading any books published in this world going forward, but I do think they're well written and entertaining.

Profile Image for lookmairead.
453 reviews
July 19, 2022
Apparently, I absolutely inhale the murder mystery category when there is a sweet magic system.

This series is delightful to the ears and despite some of the gross topics in this book (Trigger warning spoiler: Child pornography), the MC character development is captivating and charming. I am smitten with this whole series because it feels so refreshingly different against my TBR pile.

If you love the Rivers of London series (like I do), I would recommend this series.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for julia ☆ [owls reads].
1,557 reviews310 followers
January 3, 2023
This series is so gooooooooood, I'm going to cry.

The Grief of Stones was another incredible addition to this world. It was such a pleasure to meet Celehar again and join him as he tries his damn best to do his job and help his community. I will add a content warning here that this book does deal with child exploitation, so please be mindful of that when picking this up.

Katherine Addison's writing really just captures my attention right away. The plot development here and how it all slowly came together was so good to read. I did find the first half of the book a little slow, but I'm learning that's usually the case with the books in this series. Things did pick up quite a bit during the second half and the twists and turns and reveals were all very well written. I will say some of them were a little predictable, though? But not in a way that hurt my enjoyment of the book.

The shining star here was Celehar. He was such a fascinating character to me and what he went through here only added to my love for him as a narrator. There was so much tangible grief and emotion through his perspective that made me want to reach into this book and give him a hug. I do hope we get more of him, because I really want to know about the aftermath of what happened in this book.
Profile Image for Meredith Katz.
Author 15 books173 followers
October 3, 2022
This book's almost impossibly good, and after having reread the Goblin Emperor and read The Witness for the Dead this week to prepare for it, I'm gutted at having nothing more in this world to read now.

Like The Witness for the Dead, the Grief of Stones deals with several cases that Celehar is witnessing for and ties these together around the themes explored both in the in-world media (such as the operas) and of course that Celehar is personally dealing with: old and new grief, the sense that his time doing what he can do is short, the constant feel of an old scandal hanging over his head and the bitterness that his personal grief is *reduced* to scandal in so many ways, the fear of starting new things because of how the old ended. Again, as with Witness, Grief is a story that braids these together tightly, forming a bigger picture about how they all interact than any of them could be by themself.

There was a point in the story where I worried that it wasn't going to come together as smoothly as in Witness -- Essentially, the details of what was going on in the school seemed excessively clear to me and I didn't want to sit through another 70% of the book knowing it and waiting for it to play out. And then I was nearly chagrined, because while I was right, it wasn't the final mystery reveal but was simply another detail that complicated the whole story and was timed perfectly for it to be realized by the reader shortly before it was revealed in text.

Since he's a witness vel ama, the theme here is so much that Celehar is someone who speaks for people who cannot speak for themselves -- generally the dead, obviously, but this story challenges you to remember that there are entire classes of people who could speak for themselves and never be listened to, not when their word would be weighted against those more reputable than themselves. It's a message that was brought up originally in Witness with the details of the opera, and the themes of that opera pay off here -- and so do many things that began in Witness. The Grief of Stones doesn't pretend to be standalone in any way; it doesn't take the time to remind you of what you read about previously or explain existing relationships in any detail, but it carries it forward directly. I strongly recommend reading the Witness of the Dead first (or rereading it if some elements are foggy) because not only the events but the themes and motifs play off each other. They're separate enough events to be separate books, but Grief happens right after, so everything that was introduced in that is continued to be developed here, and more to the point, the development of Celehar's changing emotional state continues in a steady arc.

An absolute beautiful read. I know I'm far too early to say I can't wait for book three, but I cannot wait for book three.

Also, I continue to ship it.

Thank you to Tor and to NetGalley for the ARC I was granted in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Barb in Maryland.
1,858 reviews112 followers
July 3, 2022
4.5 stars for this direct sequel to The Witness for the Dead.

I've read this all the way through 3 times and I'm still at a loss to explain why this book grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go.

I loved the author’s story-telling style—very low key, nothing flashy or loud. I was never bored by the episodic recounting of Thara Celehar’s daily life; I was as intrigued by the small petitions he answered as I was by the big, dramatic ones.
There's an interesting mystery that forms the backbone of the book. Celehar is petitioned by Marquess Ulzhavel to determine if his wife, Tomilo, had been murdered. This simple request sends Celehar down several unforeseen paths, which, in the end, lead him into extreme danger.
Along the way, he acquires an 'apprentice': a widow, Velhiro Tomasaran, who recently discovered she could hear the dead. She joins his investigation into the death of Tomilo.
It was nice to reconnect with Celehar's friends, especially Pel-Thenhior of the Vermilion Opera, and Anora Chanavar, a fellow prelate of Ulis, who is in charge of one of Amalo's cemeteries. We also meet two university professors who were delightful—I hope we see them again.
The author puts Celehar through the emotional wringer in this book, but gifts us with a hopeful ending (and hints of at least one more book to come).
This one goes on the keeper shelf right next to The Goblin Emperor and The Witness for the Dead.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,147 reviews1,117 followers
August 9, 2022
Most bureaucratic fantasy series I ever read. Yet, all the details and formalities and procedures are easy to read. Addison really knows how to do slice-of-life, daily routines, all those nitty gritty details well.

While I prefer the first book, the main character, Thara, remains engaging, the case interesting, and I just like the supporting characters whom he encountered here and there, old and new. The pace was a bit too slow at the beginning but it became better. Interesting to see what the next book will bring.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,122 reviews817 followers
June 11, 2022
On my blog.

Rep: gay mc, achillean li

CWs: mentions of child pornography, suicide, past suicidal ideation

Galley provided by publisher

What I love most about this series is the fact that, while these are mysteries, they’re character-driven mysteries, and they’re driven by characters you sympathise with and love from the start. That is no different in The Grief of Stones than in the previous two books of this world. In fact, it may be even more so.

The Grief of Stones has a couple of mysteries going on in it for the duration: one, as explained by the blurb, attached to a foundling home, and a few more minor ones, including feuding brothers, and a murdered mistress. But when I say this is a character-driven book, I mean that these mysteries take a bit of a backseat—that is, the mysteries are a vehicle to develop the characters, they aren’t very complex in themselves.

Because, if I have one gripe, it’s that the main mystery isn’t actually that mysterious. Sure, I don’t mind reading a book where the mystery is more about character development, but I do want a little bit of mystery to it. It’s in the name, isn’t it?

However, given the previous books, this wasn’t that unexpected. And, hey, I kept reading this series on the strength of its characters. I really liked the journey that Thala goes on in this one—or rather, the start of the journey he’ll continue in the next book. Realising that, against his will, he’s gained a group of friends who’ll support him through everything? Beautiful.

And those friends are as fleshed out and well-rounded as Thala himself is. Frankly, this is a world and a group of characters that I could spend innumerable books with happily. It’s a quiet kind of fantasy world, and a quiet kind of book, in the best way, and I can definitely say that this is a series that I don’t want to end.

Which is the best sort, really.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,647 reviews1,691 followers
December 14, 2022
These books are sad, contemplative, and lovely. I had a bit of a hard time getting in to the first one because the tone and pacing are pretty unique, but once I sank into it I really enjoyed myself. Right away with The Grief of Stones I was able to get back into the right mindset and I enjoyed it even more. I know there will be at least one more book following Celahar, but I find myself hoping there will be more than that. We need, like, Murderbot levels of novellas here. (They are probably more like short novels because they're over 200 pages, but that is a technicality.)

Also, I just want more people to read these! Specifically if you have read and enjoyed Becky Chambers' Monk & Robot books, I think the Cemeteries of Amalo will be right up your alley, though they are more melancholy in tone. (Note: These are technically sequels to The Goblin Emperor, but you don't have to read that book to enjoy these, though I do recommend it!)

It's just so satisfying to see Celehar come back from his grief and loneliness and build a new community in Amalo. I am very invested in his story, and just want him to be happy and professionally fulfilled. The magic and world gets a lot of building out in these books, too, in a way that it didn't in The Goblin Emperor, because the focus of that book was political in nature and the main character was an Emperor, but here the focus is on daily life (and death).

I waited a baffling amount of time between release date and actually reading this, but now I find myself itching to get at book three, which isn't being published until late 2023 at the earliest.
Profile Image for L.L. MacRae.
Author 7 books344 followers
February 28, 2023
Another absolutely joyous read from Katherine Addison! The ending hints at a potential next book in this series, and I really hope this is the case because I cannot get enough of this world.

The first half of this book felt like an extension of the one before (The Witness For The Dead), which I utterly loved, devouring every page and feeling like I was sinking into a hot bath.

Around halfway, things took a turn. It is darker and less cosy than the book before, in both the subject matter (someone has involved a school of children in some unspeakable things) and our main character’s mental health.

Thara Celehar is a wonderful protagonist. Humble and people-pleasing, but very strong views on his work, people, and faith. He also believes the worst about himself, doesn’t feel he is deserving of anything but the lowest opinion, and sees the bad in many.

It’s a way of thinking I am overly familiar with, and every time he is proven wrong, or someone shows him kindness, I burst into tears.

This book - and this series - is slice of life. It shows you the daily tasks, quests, and concerns. It meanders along at a gentle pace, like a tugboat going down a river. It stops to smell the flowers. Describe the tea. It is not interested in dragging the reader down the plot, pointing out all the important bits and skipping everything else. This book explores the small things, and that sets the tone and atmosphere, and I ADORE IT.

The writing is wonderful, as to be expected following The Goblin Emperor and The Witness For The Dead. The characters are great - I particularly loved the new addition, Tomasaran - and I love spending afternoons in teahouses with them as they work and discuss politics and the state of the world.

I also really liked the university and the two scholars we meet briefly.

Much like The Witness For The Dead, this is sort of a detective/mystery novel wrapped up in a fantasy city where elves and goblins are the only races. There is a naming structure and levels of formal and informal speech that might seem confusing at first, but have a richness and depth. You can see when people are being vulnerable with each other simply by the way they speak to one another. For characters that often keep their emotions close to their chest, this is such a beautiful way of showing true feelings.

The religion, cultures, and faiths are also rich and well-imagined, with rules and guidelines that affect the people in the city of Amalo.

Another wonderful read that I thoroughly enjoyed, and highly recommend if you like to take your time with a book, and stroll through what’s happening with the characters rather than needing to “get to the next plot point” straightaway.
Profile Image for Brittany (Britt's Book Blurbs).
648 reviews145 followers
August 7, 2022
Thanks to NetGalley & Tor Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

4.5 stars

I have never been so excited to be approved for an eARC; The Goblin Emperor and The Witness for the Dead are two books I thoroughly enjoyed, and I recommend them to other people all the time.

It's been a while since I read The Witness for the Dead , so it took a moment to reorient myself in this world. After a few pages, though, it felt like returning to an old friend; despite the focus on death, the atmosphere is warm and comforting. Celehar's unassuming nature quickly draws you back in for another adventure.

I love how slowly everything moves without feeling like it's dragging. The details that Addison puts into her narratives separate this book, and this series, from most of the other books I read. We follow Celehar throughout his entire day, from waking in his small apartment, his morning work as a Witness for the Dead, his afternoon work as a detective, through dinner, tea, and tuna for the stray cats. And, of course, his visits to the opera - which are arguably my favourite parts.

The emotions are palpable - so many of these characters are lost or hurting, and Celehar is the perfect guide. His calling seems to be the only thing holding him together, and watching this unravel over the course of the narrative is heartbreaking and compelling. His new 'apprentice' Tomasaran adds a welcome perspective to this calling - Celehar's devotion is unfaltering, so it's nice to see someone new to this role with less surety. Celehar is not a natural mentor, so their dynamic is difficult at times, perfectly representing this forced, complex relationship; I loved every moment. Celehar is already an incredibly awkward character, and this new situation only enhanced his natural state.

I would be happy if this series never ended. I don't know how many books are planned, but I will read every single one. So much happens in The Grief of Stones , and it's all tied together beautifully. I guess this is technically the third book in the Goblin Emperor series or the second in the Cemeteries of Amalo series, but it's my favourite of both. I may have received an eARC, but I will definitely be purchasing this book.

Review originally posted here on Britt's Book Blurbs.

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Profile Image for L'encre de la magie .
217 reviews114 followers
January 3, 2023
Avis Lecture 🧐 📖 "The Grief of Stones", The Cemeteries of Amalo tome 2, Katherine Addison 👻 @solarisbooks
Coup de 💖
#cosyfantasy #murdermystery
English ⬇️

Katherine Addison est une de mes révélations de cette année. 🤩
Nous retrouvons notre cher Celehar, cet elfe qui communique avec les morts grâce à sa magie, à travers différentes affaires : meurtres, affaires d'héritage, recette perdue d'un scone prisé à un concours... En bref, le quotidien d'un "Witness for the Dead". 💀
J'ai adoré ce tome, qui est mon préféré de l'autrice à ce jour 💕. Addison développe son univers steampunk au travers des aventures de son héros et sans nous pondre des paragraphes de descriptions. Nous apprenons à nous repérer dans cette ville d'Amalo, avec ses tramway, ses cimetières, ses quartiers, ses mythes et légendes et ses salons de thés riches en gourmandises 🍵🤤 L'autrice, souvent comparée à Becky Chambers écrit de la Fantasy positive, inclusive, à mi chemin entre un roman de Cosy Fantasy et de Murder Mystery et... Je kiff!! 🤩💖
Il n'y a que bienveillance ici. Celehar est un personnage dévoué : à Ulis, sa divinité qui lui a accordé son don, à la ville d'Amalo, mais aussi à tous ses habitants vivants ou morts. Et c'est là que le personnage se révèle et me touche énormément.😭💖 Celehar n'abandonne rien tant qu'il estime que toute la lumière n'a pas été faite sur son affaire.
Très seul dans le tome précédent, ici Celehar se voit accompagné par Velhiro Tomasaran, une veuve qui va devenir son apprenti. 🤩 Une raison pour l'autrice de nous plonger dans le cœur de la formation des Witness, que ce soit les prières à Ulis, la méditation, les autopsies etc.
Au delà du style "enquête" Addison évoque des thématiques fortes comme le génocide, le meurtre (forcément), la différence entre l'éducation des femmes et des hommes et la perte d'un enfant mort né. Le récit, sans être dévastateur, est touchant, poignant et profondément humain.
Le tome final "The Tomb of Dragons" est en cour d'écriture... Et vu le titre, j'en suis déjà fou 💕
Profile Image for Katy.
645 reviews430 followers
April 14, 2022
The Grief of Stones continues the adventures of Thara Celehar, the witness to the dead in the city of Amalo. Thara is starting to settle into his life in Amalo, he is becoming less isolated and making more friends. However his tentative peace is threatened when he stumbles upon a massive scandal involving the foundling orphans of the city. When one of his witnessing's takes him into the criminal underworld of Amalo, Thara will discover conspiracies, blackmail and malicious plots threatening the cities most vulnerable.

This series strikes the perfect balance in tone between comforting and melancholy - I think this book in particular highlights the authors skill in creating a unique atmosphere and overall mood of the story. This book (and the whole series) is quite introspective and character focused but with a great cosy mystery type plot which is honestly just the perfect combo for me.

I really love Thara as a character - he is quite serious and at times grumpy but he is also so loveable. I loved seeing his developing relationships from characters in book 1. In particular, Iana - I really love their relationship although we don't see that much of it and sometimes it feels like you are being queerbaited but I'm pretty sure Thara is canonically queer and I think I like the super slow burn as it feels like it fits Thara's character well of him slowly opening up and being willing to let good things into his life.

We also see some new relationships forming in this book, I really enjoyed Thara getting an apprentice and seeing how he approached taking on a mentor role and also how this changed his attitudes to work. I also really enjoyed the apprentice character - she had such a sweet and determined personality despite her unfortunate circumstances. I also enjoyed seeing how the people Thara witnesses for affect him, often he must reckon with all his griefs and losses and rely on the support and love of his friends to help him.

This book discusses some quite heavy topics - especially around child pornography, which I thought were handled with care and added a lot of depth and heartbreak to the story. You really feel for the foundling girls and what they have to go through.

I think this book somehow feels like its own contained story but a lot of threads are left open and so I was left after finishing feeling satisfied if I knew it wasn't the last story in the world however I'm not sure yet if there will be a book 3 but I really hope there is as Thara's story definitely feels incomplete. Something fairly major happens to Thara towards the end and I think it definitely needs a lot more time to explore.

Overall I really enjoy this series and this instalment was no expectation. From the careful empathy of Thara, the explorations of grief and death (themes I always love), the cosy writing style and the perfect balance of dark themes and lighter moments that mirrors real life very well there is so much to enjoy about these books.
Profile Image for Iona Sharma.
Author 9 books111 followers
October 25, 2022
When The Witness for the Dead came out, I was SO excited: a same-world sequel to The Goblin Emperor, with my favourite minor character as the lead?? give it to me! and then I read it, and was disappointed. I adore Thara Celehar because, despite an intensely sad backstory and his very eerie power of speaking with the dead, he is a fundamentally good person. (In TGE, there is a detail about how when dealing with five victims of an accident, he says the prayer for compassion for the dead with the same reverence for the fifth victim as the first.) His major flaw is that he can't ask for help, or even see that people love him and are trying to help. But The Witness for the Dead never really dealt with that - I didn't think he was any better at it at the end of the book than he was at the beginning - and it sometimes gave me the impression that it was just a collection of incidents rather than a real novel.

But now we have the sequel, The Grief of Stones, and I love it as much as I had expected to love its predecessor. Everything changes when you understand that unlike TGE which is a chunky epic fantasy, this is actually a series of cosy mysteries in a fantasy trenchcoat, and the character development I wanted occurs book to book as it often does in such series. Celehar isn't a detective in his own eyes (he often talks about how he is a Witness vel ama, only for the dead and not the living) but he does solve murders! And this book has a couple of solid murders for him to solve, a new apprentice (who I also love) and some random petitioners with either heartbreaking or hilarious problems. And Iäna Pel-Thenhior, Celehar's love interest and other participant in the slowest slow slow slow burn of all time. And there's a hell of an ending, a set-up for something very interesting in the next book, whenever that might be.
Profile Image for C.T. Phipps.
Author 73 books584 followers
August 20, 2022
THE GRIEF OF STONES by Katherine Addison is the third installment of The Goblin Emperor series as well as the second in The Cemetaries of Amalo series. Confusing? Well, it shouldn't be. All three books are set in the same universe but this is only the second installment of the adventures of Thara Celehar, Witness for the Dead. It is his job to talk to the dead and give them justice if they have any lingering regrets.

Thara Celehar has been continuing his work in the city of Amalo when he finds himself recruited for yet another murder investigation. In this case, a beloved noblewoman heavily involved in the education of young girls has died mysteriously and an autopsy confirms it was poisoning. Thara soon finds himself investigating a school for young girls, the insidious new technology called photography, and more.

I think The Grief of Stones is slightly better than Witness for the Dead because we introduce Thara Celehar's apprentice, Velhiro Tomasaran, who is a young widow that has recently come into her own power to communicate with the dead. She provides a much needed contrast to Thara's stoic and conflict-adverse nature. She's not even that emotional but Thara is so introverted that she still comes off as a refreshing change of pace.

I like how Katherine Addison continues to build her strange fantasy steampunk world. We discover, for example, the profession of photographer is considered an unseemly one. This is because everyone assumes every photographer is a pornographer and pervert. It is a thoroughly disreputable profession despite the fact that it has a large interest from older noble women who use it for other things (presumably).

This continues to be an entertaining and fascinating occult mystery series with Thara using his ability to speak with the dead as well as investigative techniques to track down numerous problems. There's also a number of fun subversions like our protagonist not even having to talk to the corpse since the murderer knows he's cooked the moment that a Witness for the Dead is brought in.

Amalo feels like an authentic city with all of its sleaze, class differences, racial tension, and more. I wouldn't say its realistic but I believed in the characters despite the fact they have a massive haunted hill that includes a tomb with a lich in it. Still, it's rapidly becoming one of my favorite settings and while I'd prefer to follow the Goblim Emperor, Maia, I'm willing to stick with Celehar for the time being.
Profile Image for Andria Potter.
Author 2 books51 followers
November 15, 2022
I wasn't as enthralled as I was with Goblin Emperor and Witness for the Dead. I did finish this and it was good but not quite as good as the previous ones. This was a solid 3 star ⭐ read and this author will continue being an auto buy as she's one of my favorites. Recommended for fans of light fantasy that also enjoys a good murder mystery.
Profile Image for PlotTrysts.
585 reviews179 followers
June 12, 2022
This is a slow-moving, contemplative book that still managed to keep our attention. Written entirely in first person from the perspective of a "Witness for the Dead" - a cleric who can speak to the recently-deceased, and whose calling leads him to investigate their causes of death - the book is nearly a diary. It follows Celehar from day to day as he goes about his investigations, speaks with his friends, mentors a new apprentice, and deals with his own enduring grief.

Although there is an overarching narrative thread of the mystery (or mysteries) to be solved, the appeal of the book is in how engrossing and all-encompassing the world building is. Without much narrative tension to pull you in, you don't want to leave. It also helps that our viewpoint character is a wonderfully complex, ultimately decent person, whose compassion shines through in all of his actions.

This objective review is based on a complimentary copy of the novel.
Profile Image for Denise.
352 reviews32 followers
June 23, 2022
A series of relatively brief (but not unimportant) mysteries as was the first book. The pace is deliberate and, again as before, the details of the world- the clothing, the buildings and clothing- are all detailed. This time we hear more about the place of women, foundlings and goblins and half- goblins. I find the world very interesting and the main character very sympathetic. I’m not sure this is a book for someone looking for action.
Profile Image for Tijana.
732 reviews191 followers
August 15, 2022
Srednja knjiga (najavljene) trilogije. U ovom konkretnom slučaju to ipak ne znači da je kvalitetom drugačija od prve ili da ju je neophodno čitati posle nje. Glavni junak i dalje raspetljava zločine uz razgovore s mrtvima, dosta posvećene pobožnosti (jer je sveštenik boga mrtvih) i apsolutno previše griže savesti. Ketrin Edison/Sara Monet i dalje odvaja dosta prostora da nam opiše neki aspekt sveta u koji su ove priče smeštene: u ovom tomu to je razvoj opere koja je (beskrajno zabavno) upravo stigla do verizma. Ovo su intenzivno "male" priče ali su smeštene u temeljno osmišljen i oživljen svet i to im daje poseban šarm i jači emotivni zamah.
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