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The Books We’re Thankful For in 2021

It’s the last day of the year and we’re looking back at the chaotic, indescribable year that was 2021 the only way we know howthrough books. Check out the books that helped our staff get through 2021 here!


Poster Placeholder of - 24Lizzy Hosty, Marketing Intern (she/her)

A book that I’m definitely thankful for this year is All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman. I was so delightfully surprised by how impressive the world building was, and how immersed into the setting I felt. The cliffhanger at the end was absolutely wild, and I won’t be able to sit still until the second book comes out!

Image Place holder  of - 92Desirae Friesan, Publicist (she/her)

There are so many books I loved this year, but one I keep coming back to is Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the DeadSince The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books I was so delighted for more of Katherine Addison’s beautiful writing, and to be back in the world of The Goblin Emperor following Celehar as he drinks tea, listens to people’s problems, and tries to help . I cannot express how much I need this book this year, a book about grief, about daily strugglies, about justice, but most of all a book about healing and finding connection. Beyond the satisfaction of a mystery solved, when I put down this book I felt hopeful and uplifted, both for Celehar and for myself.

Place holder  of - 76Samantha Friedlander, Marketing Assistant (she/her)

Comfort Me With Apples – This book was absolutely mind-blowing! For such a short novella, it packs a powerful punch and leaves you hungry for more.
For the Wolf – I loved the atmosphere of this book: dark, haunted, woodsy, and romantic. The romance was sweet and reminded me of so many other characters that I’ve loved over the years.
A Spindle Splintered – I loved the way that Sleeping Beauty was reframed in this novella. I loved the main character right from the very first line.
A Marvellous Light – The grumpy one falls for the sunshine one, plus magic and a murder mystery? How could I resist? This was another book with an amazing atmosphere that I sank right into.
Cemetery Boys – This book didn’t come out in 2021, but it was one of my favorite spooky season reads this year! There’s a beautiful romance, amazing characters, and magic that leaps off of the page.

Placeholder of  -72a cat, Marketing Coordinator (he/him)

This year I’m thankful for flying magical islands, winged shapeshifting lions, and young adult books with adrenaline-fueled action and adventure that unfolds so addictingly fast you won’t put down the book until you’ve turned the final page. I’m talking about Shannon Price’s magnificent The Endless Skies, of course. This novel rocked. I loved it. So will you.

Image Placeholder of - 25Julia Bergen, Marketing Manager (she/her)

I’m thankful that Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune exists! Really, I’m thankful to be in a world where TJ Klune exists and is writing such beautiful stories. The idea that I get to keep reading more books by him is a luxury I do not take lightly.

image-37917Yvonne Ye, Ad/Promo Assistant (she/her)

SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS by Kai Ashante Wilson
Kai Ashante Wilson’s novella is so lyrically haunting and generically wall-breaking that I did a double take when I found out it had been published Six Whole Years Ago. The way Wilson slides effortlessly between registers of language to craft a gorgeous story of love and survival of mythic proportions is absolutely incomparable. Also, I challenge anyone to name another spear-and-sandal novella that casually drops “the exigencies of FTL travel” in the middle of a conversation. I’ll wait.
INTERIOR CHINATOWN by Charles Yu
Never have I ever met a diaspora book that was so poignantly incisive and utterly unhinged. I spent all 288 pages yelling about the way Charles Yu toys with (and gleefully manipulates) the formal elements of screenwriting to write a blistering critique of Asian portrayals in Hollywood and cinema that also managed to be a rollicking good ride all the way down. I lost my absolute mind when I realized the title itself was a play on “INT. CHINATOWN,” and this quote haunts me to this day:
“…If you didn’t know it already, now you do: old dudes from rural Taiwan are comfortable with their karaoke and when they do karaoke for some reason they love no one like they love John Denver.
 
Maybe it’s the dream of the open highway. The romantic myth of the West. A reminder that these funny little Orientals have actually been Americans longer than you have. Know something about this country that you haven’t yet figured out. If you don’t believe it, go down to your local karaoke bar on a busy night. Wait until the third hour, when the drunk frat boys and gastropub waitresses with headshots are all done with Backstreet Boys and Alicia Keys and locate the slightly older Asian businessman standing patiently in line for his turn, his face warmly rouged on Crown or Japanese lager, and when he steps up and starts slaying ‘Country Roads,’ try not to laugh, or wink knowingly or clap a little too hard, because by the time he gets to ‘West Virginia, mountain mama,’ you’re going to be singing along, and by the time he’s done, you might understand why a seventy-seven year-old guy from a tiny island in the Taiwan Strait who’s been in a foreign country for two-thirds of his life can nail a song, note perfect, about wanting to go home.”

SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN by Shelley Parker-Chan

Speaking of books that made me lose my absolute mind, Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel smashed every expectation I had for it and more. With every page of bilingual excellence and imaginative historical reclamation, I became cemented in my belief that Shelley Parker-Chan is the mad diaspora genius we didn’t know we could have and desperately needed. I try not to foist books on my friends because we all have guilt-inducing TBR piles, but I definitely shoved this one in everyone’s face approximately thirty seconds into casual conversation.

image-39355Rachel Taylor, Marketing Manager (she/her)

I am very lucky that I got to read A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows early and wow, what a treat. It has basically everything I could ever want from a booka queer romance, mutual pining, and lush prose that left me longing for more. I can’t wait for everyone to read this one in 2022!

gif-master-of-denimKaleb Russell, Marketing Assistant (he/him)

  1. The temerity of Luster by Raven Leilani is absolutely awe-inspiring. This stupendous debut was a tumultuous journey consisting of countless painful, cringe-worthy moments and I relished every second of it. The novel gives an earnest portrayal of a 23-year-old black woman named Edie trying to find her way… and falling flat on her face several times throughout the process. And *that’s* what makes this book so stunning; it’s willingness to be messy! It’s not often you get this sort of portrayal of Black women in fiction, one where they’re not held up to this absurd standard of Black Exceptionalism™.

Here, Edie gets to be this flawed person who makes some *extremely* misguided decisions and isn’t derided for it. She’s a hot mess like the rest of us, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less deserving of love and contentment. Leilani’s precise characterization and sumptuous prose makes Luster a life-affirming narrative about the growing pains of your 20s and all the beauty and anguish it entails.

  1. Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee – The final book in Fonda Lee’s perilous Green Bone Saga left me in tears. Lee’s ability to write a compelling family drama is exemplary. Conversations and arguments between characters are more gripping, more pulse pounding  than any jade duel. Words cut deeper than talon knives. This is easily one of the most remarkable trilogy endings I’ve had the honor of reading.

  2. A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark – After reading A Dead Djinn In Cairo (and just about everything else Clark has penned) I knew his debut novel would be nothing short of spectacular. And I was correct! Clark’s version of Cairo (like all of his worlds) is one rife with wondrous magic and infinite possibility. Fatma el-Sha’arawi remains a compelling main character who is as charismatic and wise as she is dapper. And best believe this woman’s fashion sense is impeccable! I hope we see more books in this universe.

What books helped you get through 2021? Let us know in the comments! 

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The Goblin Emperor Official .Gif Recap

The Witness for the Dead, the standalone sequel to bestselling and beloved The Goblin Emperor, is out in the world and we thought this would be a great time to revisit The Goblin Emperor with a .gif recap down memory lane. Check it out here!


An exiled cinnamon roll of a prince named Maia finds himself suddenly the remaining heir to a throne.

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He boards an airship home ASAP (let’s not think about how it was an airship crash that took out the emperor and the other heirs).

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Maia is assigned Nohecharei—aka guards who will stick by his side 24/7 no matter what.

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Maia has to deal with the fact that he can NEVER be alone again.

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Coronation time!

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It comes to light that the airship accident that took out of a chunk of the royal family might be suspect.

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The rest of the court are pretty skeptical. It’s just politics, Maia.

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Our new emperor gets a Witness for the Dead on the case. If the living don’t have the answers, perhaps the dead will!

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Court politics, dinners, and dances are super stressful.

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The previous emperor’s approach to his subjects was less than ideal.

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Maia strives to do better, but everyone has different advice and expectations.

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Maia is very stressed.

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As if politics and murder mysteries weren’t enough, everyone also wants Maia to pick a bride.

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Inner Maia when faced with scheming relatives, murder attempts, and non-stop meetings.

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Outer Maia when dealing with the above.

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By the end of The Goblin Emperor, all a reader wants to do is give Maia a very long hug.

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On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in July 2021

We are in a time of social distancing, but your favorite Tor authors are still coming to screens near you in the month of July! Check out where you can find them here.

Brian Staveley, The Empire’s Ruin

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Wednesday, July 7
Brookline Booksmith
Zoom
8:00 PM ET

Thursday, July 15
Towne Book Center
Zoom
7:00 PM ET

Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead

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Wednesday, July 7
Boswell Books, in conversation with Jim Higgins
Zoom
7:00 PM CT

Neil Sharpson, When the Sparrow Falls

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Saturday, July 10
Mysterious Galazy, in conversation with Cory Doctorow
Crowdcast
2:00 PM ET

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“I See Dead People”: Our 5 Favorite Ghost Talkers in SFF

While “I see dead people” might cause the average person to flee in terror, for the protagonists of these books, it’s just business as usual. From lesbian necromancers, to spirit mediums during World War I, to a ghostalker who carries messages to those left behind, here are five stories where characters don’t seem to mind talking with folks who should be dead and buried.

By Lizzy Hosty


Image Placeholder of - 70The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Cynical teen Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker, and business is booming. Listening to the never-ending parade of ghosts who ask her to take messages back to the ones they left behind, Ropa soon hears of someone on her patch who is bewitching children and leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. Calling on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish

Image Place holder  of - 45The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

In this follow-up to The Goblin Emperor, which follows Thara Celehar, the Prelate of Ulis that found the truth for the half-goblin Maia and inadvertently ousted from his place as emperor. Now, Celehar lives among the commoners, which suits him just fine. Until his skills as a Witness for the Dead – which lets him speak to the recently dead, see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, and experience the last thing they felt – thrusts him deep into a treacherous plot.

Poster Placeholder of - 54Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

During World War I, not even the phrase “dead men tell no tales” is true. Because as long as the recently deceased speak with a member of the Spirit Corps, the Allies can fight on. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American living in London during World War I, and she is such a member of the Spirit Corps. But when Ginger discovers a traitor amongst their ranks, and goes to report what she has found, no one believes her. Ginger realizes it’s all up to her to find out exactly how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them herself.

Placeholder of  -88Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke

In England in the midst of the Napoleonic era, with wars being waged on land and sea, two very different magicians emerge to challenge the belief that magic is dead and gone. One of the magicians, the reclusive Mr. Norrel, reveals his powers and becomes a celebrity instantly. The other magician – a young and handsome Jonathan Strange – comes forth to become Mr. Norrel’s protege and to join the war against France. But Jonathan dares to practice the most dangerous forms of magic, which puts his relationship with Mr. Norrel – and everything he’s worked for – at risk.

Place holder  of - 35Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon’s afterlife as a reanimated corpse involves a life of servitude that Gideon is ready to be done with. Packing up her sword, shoes, and her dirty magazines, Gideon prepares to run away – only to be stopped by her nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus who demands a service. Harrow is the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and a bone witch extraordinaire and has been invited to a deadly trial of wits that, if she succeeds at, could make her an immortal servant of the Resurrection. Harrow needs Gideon to help her win, because to lose is to have the Ninth House die.

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Excerpt: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

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Poster Placeholder of - 57Maia, the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.

Nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards, and a World Fantasy Award Finalist, the trade paperback of Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is on sale now. Check out the stand-alone sequel, The Witness for the Deadon sale 6/22/210.


1

Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.
“Cousin? What . . .” He sat up, rubbing at his eyes with one hand. “What time is it?”

“Get up!” Setheris snarled. “Hurry!”

Obediently, Maia crawled out of bed, clumsy and sleep-sodden. “What’s toward? Is there a fire?”

“Get thy clothes on.” Setheris shoved yesterday’s clothes at him. Maia dropped them, fumbling with the strings of his nightshirt, and Setheris hissed with exasperation as he bent to pick them up. “A messenger from the court. That’s what’s toward.”

“A message from my father?”

“Is’t not what I said? Merciful goddesses, boy, canst do nothing for thyself? Here!” He jerked the nightshirt off, caring neither for the knotted strings nor for Maia’s ears, and shoved his clothes at him again. Maia struggled into drawers, trousers, shirt, and jacket, aware that they were wrinkled and sweat-stained, but unwilling to try Setheris’s ill temper by saying so. Setheris watched grimly by the single candle’s light, his ears flat against his head. Maia could not find his stockings, nor would Setheris give him time to search. “Come along!” he said as soon as Maia had his jacket fastened, and Maia followed him barefoot out of the room, noticing in the stronger light that while Setheris was still properly and fully attired, his face was flushed. So he had not been wakened from sleep by the emperor’s messenger, but only because he had not yet been to bed. Maia hoped uneasily that Setheris had not drunk enough metheglin to mar the glossy perfection of his formal court manners.

Maia ran his hands through his hair, fingers catching on knots in his heavy curls. It would not be the first time one of his father’s messengers had witnessed him as unkempt as a half-witted ragpicker’s child, but that did not help with the miserable midnight imaginings: So, tell us, how looked our son? He reminded himself it was unlikely his father ever asked after him in the first place and tried to keep his chin and ears up as he followed Setheris into the lodge’s small and shabby receiving room.

The messenger was maybe a year or so older than Maia himself, but elegant even in his road-stained leathers. He was clearly full-blooded elvish, as Maia was not; his hair was milkweed-pale, and his eyes the color of rain. He looked from Setheris to Maia and said, “Are you the Archduke Maia Drazhar, only child of Varenechibel the Fourth and Chenelo Drazharan?”

“Yes,” Maia said, bewildered.

And then bewilderment compounded bewilderment, as the messenger deliberately and with perfect dignity prostrated himself on the threadbare rug. “Your Imperial Serenity,” he said.

“Oh, get up, man, and stop babbling!” Setheris said. “We understood that you had messages from the Archduke’s father.”

“Then you understand what we do not,” the messenger said, rising again to his feet, as graceful as a cat. “We bear messages from the Untheileneise Court.”

Maia said hastily, merely to prevent the altercation from escalating, “Please, explain.”

“Your Serenity,” the messenger said. “The airship Wisdom of Choharo crashed yesterday, sometime between sunrise and noon. The Emperor Varenechibel the Fourth, the Prince Nemolis, the Archduke Nazhira, and the Archduke Ciris were all on board. They were returning from the wedding of the Prince of Thu-Athamar.”

“And the Wisdom of Choharo crashed,” Maia said slowly, carefully.

“Yes, Serenity,” said the messenger. “There were no survivors.”

For five pounding heartbeats, the words made no sense. Nothing made sense; nothing had made sense since he had woken with Setheris’s grip hurting his shoulder. And then it was suddenly, pitilessly clear. As if from a very long distance away, he heard his own voice saying, “What caused the crash?”

“Does it matter?” Setheris said.

“Serenity,” said the messenger with a deliberate nod in Maia’s direction. “They do not yet know. But the Lord Chancellor has sent Witnesses, and it is being investigated.”

“Thank you,” said Maia. He knew neither what he felt nor what he ought to feel, but he knew what he ought to do, the next necessary thing. “You said . . . there are messages?”

“Yes, Serenity.” The messenger turned and picked up his dispatch case from where it lay on the side table. There was only one letter within, which the messenger held out. Setheris snatched the letter and broke the seal savagely, as if he still believed the messenger to be lying.

He scanned the paper, his customary frown deepening into a black scowl, then flung it at Maia and stalked from the room. Maia grabbed at it ineffectually as it fluttered to the floor.

The messenger knelt to retrieve it before Maia could and handed it to him without a flicker of expression.

Maia felt his face heating, his ears lowering, but he knew better than to try to explain or apologize for Setheris. He bent his attention to the letter. It was from his father’s Lord Chancellor, Uleris Chavar:

To the Archduke Maia Drazhar, heir to the imperial throne of Ethuveraz, greetings in this hour of greatest grief.

Knowing that Your Imperial Serenity will want all honor and respect paid to your late father and brothers, we have ordered arrangements put in train for a full ceremonial funeral in three days’ time, that is, on the twenty-third instant. We will notify the five principalities, also Your Imperial Serenity’s sister in Ashedro. We have already ordered the courier office to put airships at their disposal, and we have no doubt that they will use all necessary haste to reach the Untheileneise Court in good time for the funeral.

We do not, of course, know what Your Imperial Serenity’s plans may be, but we hold ourself ready to implement them.

With true sorrow and unswerving loyalty,

Uleris Chavar

Maia looked up. The messenger was watching him, as impassive as ever; only the angle of his ears betrayed his interest.

“I . . . we must speak with our cousin,” he said, the constructions of the formal first person awkward and unaccustomed. “Do you . . . that is, you must be tired. Let us summon a manservant to tend to your needs.”

“Your Serenity is very kind,” the messenger said, and if he knew that there were only two menservants in the entire household of Edonomee, he gave no sign.

Maia rang the bell, knowing that birdlike Pelchara would be waiting eagerly for a chance to find out what was happening. Haru, who did all the outside work, was probably still asleep; Haru slept like the dead, and the whole household knew it.

Pelchara popped in, his ears up and his eyes bright and inquisitive. “This gentleman,” Maia said, mortified to realize that he did not know the messenger’s name, “has traveled hard. Please see that he has everything he requires.” He faltered before the thought of explaining the news to Pelchara, mumbled, “I will be with my cousin,” and hurried out.

He could see light under Setheris’s door, and could hear his cousin’s brisk, bristling stride. Let him not have stopped for the metheglin decanter, Maia thought, a brief, hopeless prayer, and tapped on the door.

“Who is’t?” At least he did not sound any drunker than he had a quarter hour ago.

“Maia. May I—?”

The door opened with savage abruptness, and Setheris stood in the opening, glaring. “Well? What chews on thy tail, boy?”

“Cousin,” Maia said, almost whispering, “what must I do?”

“What must thou do?” Setheris snorted laughter. “Thou must be emperor, boy. Must rule all the Elflands and banish thy kindred as thou seest fit. Why com’st thou whining to me of what thou must do?”

“Because I don’t know.”

“Moon-witted hobgoblin,” Setheris said, but it was contempt by reflex; his expression was abstracted.

“Yes, cousin,” Maia said meekly.

After a moment, Setheris’s eyes sharpened again, but this time without the burning anger. “Thou wish’st advice?”

“Yes, cousin.”

“Come in,” Setheris said, and Maia entered his cousin’s bedchamber for the first time.

It was as austere as Setheris himself—no mementoes of the Untheileneise Court, no luxuries. Setheris waved Maia to the only chair and himself sat on the bed. “Thou’rt right, boy. The wolves are waiting to devour thee. Hast thou the letter?”

“Yes, cousin.” Maia handed Setheris the letter, now rather crumpled and the worse for wear. Setheris read it, frowning again, but this time his ears were cocked thoughtfully. When he had finished, he folded the letter neatly, his long white fingers smoothing the creases. “He presumes much, does Uleris.”

“He does?” And then, realizing: “Dost know him?”

“We were enemies for many years,” Setheris said, shrugging it aside. “And I see he has not changed.”

“What mean’st thou?”

“Uleris has no reason to love thee, boy.”

“He says he’s loyal.”

“Yes. But loyal to what? Not to thee, for thou art merely the last and least favored child of his dead master, who wished thee not on the throne, as well thou know’st. Use thy wits, boy—an thou hast any.”

“What do you mean?”

“Merciful goddesses, grant me patience,” Setheris said ostentatiously to the ceiling. “Consider, boy. Thou art emperor. What must thou do first?”

“Cousin, this is not the time for riddles.”

“And it is not a riddle I pose thee.” Setheris shut his mouth and glared at him, and after a moment, Maia realized.

“The coronation.”

“Ha!” Setheris brought his hands together sharply, making Maia jump. “Exactly. So why, I ask thee, does thy coronation not figure largely in Uleris’s plans or, indeed, at all?”

“The funeral—”

“No! Thou think’st as a child, not as an emperor. The dead are dead, and they care not for the honor Uleris prates of, as well he knows. It is the living power that must concern thee, as it concerns him.”

“But . . .”

“Think, boy,” Setheris said, leaning forward, his cold eyes alight with fervor. “If thou art capable—if thou hast ever thought before in thy life—think. Thou com’st to the Untheileneise Court, the funeral is held. What then?”

“I speak to . . . oh.”

“Thou seest.”

“Yes.” Better than Setheris might care to realize, for it was at his

cousin’s hands that Maia had learned this particular lesson; by waiting, he put himself in the position of a supplicant to Chavar, and supplicants could always be denied. “Then what must I do?”

Setheris said, “Thou must countermand Uleris. Meaning that thou must reach the Untheileneise Court before he has time to entrench himself.”

“But how can I?” It took most of a week to reach the court from Edonomee.

“Airship,” Setheris said as if it were obvious.

Maia’s stomach knotted. “I couldn’t.”

“Thou must. Or thou shalt be a puppet dancing at the end of Uleris’s strings, and to a tune of his choosing. And thy nineteenth birthday may very well see thee dead.”

Maia bowed his head. “Yes, cousin.”

“The airship that brought Chavar’s lapdog here can take us back. They’ll be waiting for him. Now, go. Make thyself fit to be seen.”

“Yes, cousin,” Maia said, and did not contest Setheris’s assumption that he would be traveling to the court with the new emperor.

Copyright © 2019 by Katherine Addison

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Queer Books Coming in 2021 🏳️‍🌈

Happy Pride, y’all!!! We are so excited to celebrate the month, starting off with highlighting all of our new queer SFF books out in 2021. Which one is going to the top of your TBR?


Placeholder of  -60Dealbreaker by L. X. Beckett

Rubi Whiting has done the impossible. She has proved that humanity deserves a seat at the galactic table. Well, at least a shot at a seat. Having convinced the galactic governing body that mankind deserves a chance at fixing their own problems, Rubi has done her part to launch the planet into a new golden age of scientific discovery and technological revolution. However, there are still those in the galactic community that think that humanity is too poisonous, too greedy, to be allowed in, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage a species determined to pull itself up.

ON SALE NOW!

Place holder  of - 5Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

ON SALE NOW!

Poster Placeholder of - 36Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Prince Kiem, a famously disappointing minor royal and the Emperor’s least favorite grandchild, has been called upon to be useful for once. He’s commanded to fulfill an obligation of marriage to the representative of the Empire’s newest and most rebellious vassal planet. His future husband, Count Jainan, is a widower and murder suspect. Neither wants to be wed, but with a conspiracy unfolding around them and the fate of the empire at stake they will have to navigate the thorns and barbs of court intrigue, the machinations of war, and the long shadows of Jainan’s past, and they’ll have to do it together. So begins a legendary love story amid the stars.

ON SALE NOW!

Image Place holder  of - 73A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger . . .

ON SALE NOW!

Image Placeholder of - 87The House of Always by Jenn Lyons

In the aftermath of the Ritual of Night, everything has changed. The Eight Immortals have catastrophically failed to stop Kihrin’s enemies, who are moving forward with their plans to free Vol Karoth, the King of Demons. Kihrin has his own ideas about how to fight back, but even if he’s willing to sacrifice everything for victory, the cost may prove too high for his allies. Now they face a choice: can they save the world while saving Kihrin, too? Or will they be forced to watch as he becomes the very evil they have all sworn to destroy.

ON SALE NOW!

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

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 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. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice.

ON SALE 06/22/2021!

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

ON SALE 07/20/2021!

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that’s just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance. But, some wars can’t ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren’t content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

ON SALE 09/21/2021!

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth.

ON SALE 09/28/2021!

Even Greater Mistakes by Charlie Jane Anders

The woman who can see all possible futures is dating the man who can see the one and only foreordained future. A wildly popular slapstick filmmaker is drawn, against his better judgment, into working with a fascist militia, against a background of social collapse. Two friends must embark on an Epic Quest To Capture The Weapon That Threatens The Galaxy, or else they’ll never achieve their dream of opening a restaurant. The stories in this collection, by their very outrageousness, achieve a heightened realism unlike any other. Anders once again proves she is one of the strongest voices in modern science fiction, the writer called by Andrew Sean Greer, “this generation’s Le Guin.”

ON SALE 11/16/2021!

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Rules vs. Guidelines in Fantasy

Place holder  of - 62The Witness for the Dead is hitting shelves on 06/22 and to celebrate, we’re doing a throwback to this amazing Rules vs. Guidelines in Fantasy guest post from author Katherine Addison! Check it out below.


By Katherine Addison

I have loved fantasy since I was a very little girl. My father read to me: L. Frank Baum, J. R. R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, C. S. Lewis, David Eddings, Robert Jordan. As I grew older, I scoured both school and public libraries, read fantasy and science fiction and horror: Stephen King and Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany and Lois McMaster Bujold and Angela Carter. I never stopped loving fantasy, never “grew up” into a preference for realism. And I have always, always loved what Tolkien calls secondary world fantasy, stories that take place in entirely made up worlds.

I love writing those stories as much as I love reading them. I love the freedom they offer for the exercise of sheer invention. And thus one of the things that frustrates me terribly about secondary world fantasy as a genre is how hidebound it has become. The combined impact of The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons (both excellent entities on their own merits) has created a set of genre conventions that have almost become rules, rather than merely guidelines. One of these rules is that all fantasies shall be quests; another is that no fantasy world shall ever approach the Industrial Revolution.

Obviously, these rules get broken all the time, which is a good thing. But they remain in the background, like the ceiling in “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” that could lower and squash you at any time. And it can be very hard to think around them.

The Goblin Emperor was an attempt to contravene both rules. There is no quest, and this is a world with both magic and a lively technological and scientific community. (I never have understood why magic would negate technology, even though many stories I love take that as a guiding principle.) And the technology turned out to be decidedly steampunk.

I blame this on airships. Zeppelins and dirigibles and blimps and hot-air balloons. I love them, just as steampunk loves them, and insofar as I can tell you the idea that sparked The Goblin Emperor, it was the desire to put elves and airships in the same story. Once I’d made that world-building decision, the rest of it became inevitable, and I loved figuring out the details of how the airships fit into elvish society and thinking of names for the goblin steamships. When I realized the vast central palace could have a pneumatic tube system, I was excited for days.

The hardest part was the bridge that runs as a motif through the entire book. I’m not an engineer; I don’t have the first idea how you’d actually go about building a steam-powered retractable bridge. I was stuck on that problem for an incredibly long time. But Steven Brust said something that saved me. He said that when you’re describing made-up technology, he doesn’t want to know how it works, he wants to know how it runs. And that gave me the idea of a working model instead of a long expositional presentation, and that turned into one of my favorite set pieces in the book—which is also a scene in which magic and technology are used together.

Because as far as I’m concerned, the openness of invention in secondary world fantasy means that writers can build worlds where technology and magic are intertwined or where they are at odds or anything in between. If you can imagine it, fantasy will let you write about it, and that is the most powerful and enduring reason that it is my best-beloved among the genres.

Fantasy means never having to say, “It can’t be done.”

Katherine Addison is the author of the award-winning novel, The Goblin Emperor. Her next book, The Witness for the Dead, comes out from Tor Books 06/22/2021.

Pre-order The Witness for the Dead Here

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Excerpt: The Witness for the Dead

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Poster Placeholder of - 64Katherine 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 the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

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. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books—wide and deep and true.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison, on sale 06/22/21.


In the morning, it was back to the Prince Zhaicava Building and the post and the papers and the wait for petitioners. No one came, and I used the time to write down everything I had learned about the dead woman.

Then, with an hour before noon and no petitioners in sight, I went down the hall to one of the other oddities housed in the Prince Zhaicava Building, the cartographers for the Amalo Municipal Tramline Authority, the clerks and mapmakers in charge of knowing exactly where the tramlines ran and of giving exact and accurate directions to the repair crews. Maps, some complete, some half drawn, some still uninked sketches, covered the walls, and there were filing cabinets full of written directions on how to get to every major landmark in Amalo from the Prince Zhaicava Building. I had overheard an argument one day about changing the starting point to the Amal’theileian, as being “more suitable,” but Dachensol Orzhimar, the master mapmaker of the Amalo Municipal Tramline Authority, said sharply, “All that would accomplish is that we’d have to add directions from here to the Amal’theileian to the start of every script.” And there the matter rested.

The mapmakers were an intense group of young elven men, passionately in love with their work. The clerks were mostly middle-aged elven ladies, efficient and serious and very proud of their abilities. They were also proud of their well-earned reputation for knowing everything that happened in Amalo, since everyone involved in the city or principate bureaucracies (insofar as the two could be separated) came to them when they needed directions to anywhere. It was amazing, Min Talenin had told me, how often the bureaucrats of the court ended up out in the city, inspecting and interviewing and participating in ceremonies.

Min Talenin and Merrem Bechevaran, the elven clerks who had the office to themselves this morning, were pleased to see me. Although I did not gossip, I did ask for their help if I had a case that warranted it. I had asked them about Mer Urmenezh’s sister, and now I showed them the drawing of Arveneän Shelsin.

Min Talenin said, eyes widening, “That’s the mid-soprano from the Vermilion Opera.”

Min Talenin was a good middle-aged bourgeoise elven lady, the daughter of a clockmaker, thrifty and responsible. The only luxury she allowed herself was the opera. If she and Athris in the Zheimela agreed about the lady’s identity, it seemed most probable that they were correct.

“Are you sure?” I said, but I knew she was before she said, “Absolutely sure. What happened to her?”

“She was thrown in the canal three nights ago,” I said.

“Oh no,” said Min Talenin. I realized that I could perhaps have phrased it more tactfully.

“Who would want to do such an awful thing?” said Merrem Bechevaran, who was younger than Min Talenin and a widow.

“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” I said. “I was hoping you could help me. I need directions to the Vermilion Opera.”

“Oh, that’s easy!” said Min Talenin, brightening. She dug in one of the filing cabinets beside her desk.

Merrem Bechevaran went to the wall and began sorting among the maps. She returned with a map leaf at the same time Min Talenin emerged with a beautifully written sheet of directions.

Merrem Bechevaran spread the map out on her desk and Min Talenin said, pausing occasionally to let me scribble notes in my notebook, “So. Starting from here, you take the Mountain Road northeast until it intersects General Baizhahar Boulevard. It will be a sharp turn backwards, for you want to follow the boulevard northwest. You follow General Baizhahar until you come to the Plaza of the Armistice, where seven streets meet. You’ll take Indigo Street, which runs straight north. In one block, it crosses Vermilion Street, and the opera is on the northeast corner.”

Merrem Bechevaran came back from another filing cabinet with a drawing of the Vermilion Opera. It was a massive brick building that clearly would be impossible to miss or mistake.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Come and tell us if we are inaccurate,” said Min Talenin.

“Of course,” I said, made my bows, and departed.

 

After lunch at an inexpensive Barizheise zho’an, I followed Min Talenin’s directions. As always, they were as clear as you could ask directions to be, and I found the Vermilion Opera with no difficulty.

The Opera was an enormous building, four or five storeys tall and covering an entire block. The great arches of the entrance seemed like gaping mouths waiting to swallow me whole.

I told myself sternly not to be ridiculous.

I had never been to the Vermilion Opera before—the ticket prices, even for the pit, 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 aware of the clacking sound of my shoe heels, and a young half-goblin man, pale eyes in a dark face, appeared suddenly out of the ticket window and said, “Can I help you, othala?”

“My name is Thara Celehar,” I said, “and I am a Witness for the Dead. I need to speak to someone about a death for which I am witnessing.”

He looked both alarmed and uncertain. “I…I don’t know. Mer Kalmened is not here, and I don’t know if…” He trailed off, thinking hard. Then an idea came to him, for he said, “I will ask Mer Pel-Thenhior. Excuse me just one moment.” He disappeared from the window.

I did not have to wait long before one of the auditorium doors swung open, and another half-goblin man came striding out.

He was several inches taller than I was, though not goblin-massive, with ash-gray skin and eyes of the luminous gold particular, like the form of his surname, to the Pelanra, the western coast of Barizhan. He wore his hair in long Barizheise braids decorated with beads and tiny gold charms. He was wearing a beautiful fawn-colored suit and an irritated expression. “I am Iäna Pel-Thenhior,” he said in a carrying baritone. “What can I do for you?”

“My name is Thara Celehar,” I said again. “I am a Witness for the Dead.”

His face went through a complicated series of emotions, and he said, not asking, “It’s Arveneän.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Curse it,” he said, with a strange mixture of anger and sadness. “I knew something had to be wrong. She might skip a rehearsal, but she’d never skip a performance. I’ve been waiting for you for two days.”

“It has taken us this long to identify her,” I said. “She was found in the canal.”

“In the canal?” His ears showed his genuine surprise. “What in the name of all that’s holy was she doing there? Arveneän prided herself on never going south of the city wall, and although that wasn’t strictly true, she certainly did not venture that far south in the city very often.”

“She washed up at the Reveth’veraltamar,” I said. “Assuming that our identification is correct—we still need someone who knew her to come see the body.”

“Do you?” He grimaced. “I suppose that would be me, then. Just a moment.” He disappeared back through the double doors. When he returned, he was scowling, and his expression did not lighten as we rode the tram south to General Parzhadar Square and the Chapterhouse.

The novices on duty at the main doors were accustomed to taking people to view the dead. They led us through the public halls of the Chapterhouse and down the great main staircase of the crypt. At the bottom, Subpraeceptor Volar was on duty, and he took us to the cold room, where the woman’s body still lay on the marble slab.

Pel-Thenhior did the dead woman the courtesy of looking closely. He nodded tightly. “That’s Arveneän. Goddesses of mercy.” He did not seem grief-stricken, precisely, but badly rattled.

“Did you know her well?” I asked.

“I’ve known Arveneän since we were children,” he said absently. “We hated each other.” Then he seemed to hear his own words, for his ears twitched violently. “Oh dear. Should I not have said that?”

“Did you kill her?”

“No.”

“Then you have no reason not to tell the truth, and I appreciate your honesty.”

“My mouth always runs half a minute ahead of my mind,” he said ruefully. “You said she was found in the canal? 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.”

 

We ended up in a teahouse on General Parzhadar Square, drinking a golden orchar that was not as strong as I liked, but also lacked the harshness of the black orchar I drank for preference. Pel-Thenhior laced his liberally with honey and said, “What do you need to know about Arveneän?”

“The last time you saw her?”

“It was on the ninth. We argued about the new opera we’re rehearsing and she left with her newest patron, Osmer Borava Coreshar. That was at about six in the evening, since they were just beginning to set the stage for General Olethazh.

“And she was last seen alive a little before midnight.”

Pel-Thenhior’s ears flattened and he said, “That’s an awful feeling, knowing that she flounced out of the theater with only six hours to live.”

“Obviously, I need to talk to Osmer Coreshar—to all of her patrons. Do you know how I can find them?”

“Her patrons?” I was surprised that he seemed taken aback. “You don’t think…” Then he caught himself. “Well, of course, there’s no reason it couldn’t be one of her patrons.”

“Murder is no respecter of rank,” I said. “But in any event, I need to speak to them, for she might have said things to them that she would not have said to anyone else.”

Pel-Thenhior snorted. “I can guarantee that much. Arveneän with her patrons was an Arveneän the rest of us never saw.”

“Did she have many?”

“Most certainly. She and Nanavo, our senior principal soprano, sometimes seemed almost as if they were in a competition to see how many young men of means they could bedazzle. For Arveneän was not interested in young men without means, even though there were several who would have married her without a blink. But only the wealthy men would do for Arveneän—she wasn’t as picky about their age.”

“Then what was she doing in the Zheimela after dark?” I said, more bluntly than I had meant to.

His eyes widened. “She was found in the Zheimela?”

“She was found at the Reveth’veraltamar,” I said, “but she was thrown off a dock in the Zheimela. I could get that much from her corpse.”

He shook his head slowly, clearly distressed. “But why would she be there? No, I’m sorry, obviously that’s the question you’re trying to answer. But if you want to talk to her patrons, come to the opera tonight. They’ll all be there.”

When I hesitated, trying to calculate the price of a ticket to the Vermilion Opera, even in the pit, against my finances, he said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. You can sit in my box.”

“Your box?”

“I’m the principal director of the Vermilion Opera,” he said with a tiny mock-bow. “Also the principal composer. I sit in a box by the stage and terrify the singers by taking notes.”

“But…”

“Those seats are never sold anyway,” he said. “I promise you, no one will mind.”

“Most people prefer not to associate themselves with those of my calling,” I said cautiously.

“Why in the world not? It’s not as if it’s contagious.”

“Some people seem to believe it is.”

He dismissed such people with a flick of his ears. “Never mind that. Come with me back to the theater now and I’ll make sure the ticket office knows to let you in.”

 

On the tram ride north, Pel-Thenhior, making up (he said) for previous sullenness, proved to be a lively companion. He told me about the new opera in rehearsal, which was one that he had written, called Zhelsu. “It’s quite a departure from the usual, but I’m tired of operas about emperors and generals. I wanted to write an opera about ordinary people. Manufactory workers.”

“That is certainly different,” I said.

He grinned. “Oh, the expression on your face. I get that reaction quite frequently, but it only makes me more certain that this is a thing that needs to be done.”

“Needs?”

“Opera is amazing, but it’s been doing the same thing over and over again for hundreds of years. I think it could do other things, and the only way to find out is to try.”

“And thus you’ve written an opera about manufactory workers.”

“Yes!” he said. “And it’s coming together beautifully. More so now that Arveneän isn’t picking fights and complaining, which, you understand is—was—what Arveneän did. That reminds me. I have to find Toïno and tell her she’s singing Merrem Chovenaran tonight. She won’t be happy.” He sighed. “And then I have to tell everyone about Arveneän.”

I noticed that there was no suggestion of closing the theater that evening and asked him about it.

“We can’t afford to,” he said unapologetically. “Our ticket revenues are barely ahead of our expenses as it is. And our patron…” He made a face. “Financial discussions with him are always unpleasant. I don’t think he’d let the theater fail, but I admit that I’m not sure.”

In the lobby of the theater, Pel-Thenhior immediately went to the ticket window and told them I was his guest that evening. He then turned to me and said, “Is there anything else you need from me, othala?”

“Do you know where Min Shelsin lived?”

“As it happens, I do,” said Pel-Thenior. “She lives—lived—not far from me. In Cemchelarna.”

“Cemchelarna,” I said. On the Zheimela Road between the city wall and the canal, Cemchelarna had been intensely fashionable about five hundred years ago and was now a mix of manufactory workers and artists. I had chosen to live in the Airmen’s Quarter for Ulvanensee and for the straight shot up the Zulnicho tramline to the Prince Zhaicava Building, but I could easily have chosen Cemchelarna instead.

“It’s a red clapboard building with a stone foundation, only the clapboard is so old it’s faded to pink, and it’s directly across from the East Water Works on North Petunia Street. You take the Zheimela Road out the Zheimel’tana to Emperor Belvorsina III Square. The Coribano line will take you that far. Then you turn east on Hawthorne Street. Take the Abandoned Bridge over where the Cemchelarna River used to be, and you’ll find yourself in the confluence of five streets. You walk south on North Petunia for three blocks until you see the East Water Works, which is a massive brick monstrosity you cannot possibly miss.”

“That’s very clear. Thank you.”

His smile was sudden and dazzling. “You are welcome. But now, I am sorry, but I must find Toïno. I’ll see you tonight.”

He strode off, leaving me for a moment off balance, as if the force of his personality had been holding me upright. Which was a ridiculous notion, and I shook it off, leaving the theater to go in search of Min Shelsin’s home.

 

I followed Pel-Thenhior’s directions southeast along the Zheimela Road—I walked to save the tram fare—to the Emperor Belvorsina III Square. Then two blocks east on Hawthorne Street until I came to the Abandoned Bridge.

The Abandoned Bridge was badly misnamed, for it had never been abandoned. There were still shops and houses all along its length, and many of the buildings that had been erected over the buried river had bridges of their own from their upper floors tethered to the wrought-iron railings of the Abandoned Bridge.

I crossed over the bridge, dodging several hawkers and a troupe of street acrobats, then walked south on North Petunia Street until I saw the brick bulk of the East Water Works looming among the two- and three-storey clapboard houses, some with shops on their ground floors. I stopped on the sidewalk in front of the Water Works; the building directly across the street, faded clapboard just as Pel-Thenhior had described, was clearly a boarding house, complete with the green and silver flag hanging over the porch railing to indicate an empty room and an elderly elven lady sitting on the porch with a great mass of patchwork spread out over her lap. Resident or landlady, she seemed like a good place to start.

She watched me come with bright pale eyes, and the closer I got the more clearly I realized how truly venerable this lady was. I said, “Greetings, dachenmaro,” as I came up the porch steps.

It amused her. Her eyes almost disappeared into her wrinkles and she said, “Greetings, othala,” in return. “Come sit beside me, if you don’t disdain to keep an old lady company.” Her voice was hoarse but still firm, and she had a strong Amaleise accent of the sort the comic operas gave to their villains.

“Of course,” I said and took the chair next to hers.

She showed me her quilt, scraps of fabric pieced together into the pattern called Valmata’s Return. She was now stitching the top and batting and backing together, overlaying Valmata’s Return with a pattern called Scorpion Dance—appropriate to the story of Valmata, who returned from war and poisoned his father in order to take control of the family estates. They sang the ballad in Lohaiso.

It was a great deal of aggression for one quilt, but I judged it wisest not to say so. Instead, I complimented her on her beautiful tiny stitching.

She laughed, pleased, and said, “When you’ve been sewing for ninety years, othala, your stitching hand will be just as crisp.”

“Ninety years is a lot of stitching, dachenmaro,” I said.

“Don’t I know it!” she said, laughing again. “But I am no one’s mother. My name is Rhadeän Nadin.”

“I am Thara Celehar,” I said.

“What brings you here, Othala Celehar? Are you looking for a room?”

“No,” I said. “I’ve come about Arveneän Shelsin.”

“We don’t know where she is,” Min Nadin said, “as I told the other young man.”

Probably someone from the Opera, possibly Pel-Thenhior himself. “No, not that. I’m witnessing for her. She was killed three nights ago.”

“We wondered why she did not come home,” said Min Nadin bleakly, again using the first-person plural. “You should talk to my niece, who is the landlady. I only know that her name was Arveneän Shelsin, and she was an opera singer with the Vermilion Opera. But truly you should be talking to Vinsu.” She raised her voice into an unexpectedly powerful shout: “Vinsu!

Almost immediately, a stout hen-like elven woman emerged from the house, saying, “Aunt Rhadeän? What’s wrong?”

“A prelate has come asking about Min Shelsin,” said Min Nadin, nodding at me. “They’ve found her body.”

“Her body? Oh no!” She sank into the remaining chair, wide blue eyes on me.

“I’m very sorry,” I said. “I am Thara Celehar, a Witness for the Dead. I am trying to witness for Min Shelsin.”

“But what happened to her? Oh dear, my name is Vinsu Nadaran, and you are welcome to my house, othala. I will tell you anything I can, but I don’t know very much about Min Shelsin. Some boarders tell me everything about themselves, but Min Shelsin was very secretive.”

That, at least, was not a surprise. I said, “She was found at the Reveth’veraltamar. Someone threw her in the canal.”

“Oh no!” moaned Merrem Nadaran again.

“I knew that girl was going to come to a bad end,” said Min Nadin. “Ambition is one thing, but she was grasping with it, greedy.”

“Aunt Rhadeän!”

“Oh hush, Vinsu. I’m ninety-seven. Surely that’s old enough to be allowed to speak my mind.”

Only some of the sects in the city believed that one should never speak ill of the dead. I said, “I’m grateful for any details you can give me, and it would be of tremendous help if I could see her room.”

“Oh no,” said Merrem Nadaran again, though clearly not in refusal.

Min Nadin sighed.

“I would not take anything,” I said.

“Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t,” said Merrem Nadaran. “Yes, of course. Just follow me.”

The house was spotlessly clean and stretched back from the street farther than I had expected: eight rooms in two rows of four on each floor, plus the staircase at the rear. We climbed to the third floor in silence, and Merrem Nadaran led me to the second room from the front on the north side of the house. The door was locked, but she had a master key.

“I have a rule,” she said, “that I don’t use this except in emergencies.”

I was glad to be ranked as an emergency, but I thought I might offend her if I said so. I asked instead, “Do you know anything about Min Shelsin? Did she have family in Amalo?”

“Not to my knowledge, but she was as close-mouthed as a turtle.” Merrem Nadaran opened the door and waved me inside. “All she’d ever talk about was the Opera. She’d been a principal there for three years, and she was puffed up like a turkey cock about it.”

The room was of medium size, furnished with a bed, a dresser, and a table by the window with one spindly chair. Everything had the distinctive air of secondhand furniture. As many people do, Min Shelsin had used the top of her dresser as a tiny shrine with five michenothas to represent the gods and a token from the Sanctuary of Csaivo to indicate that she’d made at least one pilgrimage in Amalo. The shrine was the only character the room showed until I opened the door of the closet and was ambushed by a riot of color: red and blue and gold, a vivid splash of fuchsia, green and blazing yellow and purple. And the fabrics were just as wild, silk and taffeta and velvet and all manner of brocades, gauze and lace and ribbons everywhere. I parted the row of lush and brightly colored gowns and saw that the closet made a right angle turn with another bar full of hanging gowns, just as peacock-bright as the first row.

“How far back does the closet go?”

Merrem Nadaran looked blank for a moment, then made a gesture indicating the width of the room. “All the way to the hall,” she said. “All my lodgers appreciate the closets.”

Thinking of my own room, I could only nod in agreement.

Min Shelsin’s room held nothing more of interest. I thanked Merrem Nadaran for her trouble and left, saying good-bye to Min Nadin on my way.

“Will we see you again, othala?” she asked.

“Very likely.” I felt no enthusiasm at the prospect, but that closet was a mystery I knew would nag at me.

“If you come back often enough,” she said, “I’ll make you a quilt.”

Copyright © Katherine Addison 2021

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Download a Free Digital Preview of The Witness for the Dead

Image Placeholder of - 46Katherine Addison returns at last to the world of The Goblin Emperor with this stand-alone sequel. Download a FREE sneak peek today!

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.

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