Madison author Katherine Addison returns with a new novel

At heart, the Madison novelist Katherine Addison is a horror writer. She said it during a virtual event with Boswell Books last year.

Readers of his new novel, “The Grief of Stones,” can decide which horror is greater: the centuries-old abomination of the undead that a cleric must face, or the living people who exploit orphaned girls.

“The Grief of Stones” (out June 14) is the third novel in the world she wrote for “The Goblin Emperor” (2014), which won the Locus award for best fantasy novel of the year. It’s a class-stratified, racially complicated, polytheistic society — and incredibly ancient (Addison said ancient Rome was one of his inspirations for the setting).

He is also obsessed with funeral rites and mortuary practices, to keep ghouls from emerging from neglected and abandoned graves.

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Thara Celehar, the central figure of “The Witness of the Dead” (2021), returns in this sequel. He is a priest of Ulis, the god of death and dreams, with the rare ability to touch a recently deceased person (or their ashes) and pick up thoughts and sensory impressions. His real superpower is perseverance, as he doggedly investigates suspicious deaths, which sometimes requires him to interrogate aristocrats who are under no obligation to speak to him.

Books by Madison novelist Katherine Addison include "The witness of the dead."

The investigation into a teenage suicide leads Celehar to a school for foundlings run by a wonderful woman. On leaving, a girl hands him a note:

PLEASE HELP US

STOP THEM

Unraveling this mystery sets Celehar on a harrowing path that will change him on the deepest level.

Unexpectedly, Celehar also finds herself battling an apprentice, Velhiro Tomasin, a middle-aged widow who shares his psychic talent but has no training to use it or in the priesthood. As they start off awkwardly, she becomes a willing Robin for her Batman.

Celehar’s quest for truth and justice, along with the obstacles and monsters he faces, is more than enough reason to read “The Grief of Stones.” Addison’s world-building is great too, with each page etching the image of an incredibly ancient (and difficult to traverse, both physically and socially) society.

In “The Grief of Stones,” Celehar demonstrates deep compassion for women and girls in a patriarchal society. As a homosexual who himself borders on poverty, he knows what it means to live with few resources and without power.

Despite his dark and self-critical air, he knows how to make friends. Important figures from “The Witness for the Dead” return in this book, including Anora, ecclesiastical colleague and sounding board, and Pel-Thenhior, a flamboyant opera director and possible romantic partner. Among the many other things he does well, “The Grief of Stones” shows us how a single person builds a family of choice, and what that family means to him in times of crisis.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

Lola R. McClure