Joint Review Tori and Pam
Favorite Quote: “Take nothing, leave nothing behind.”
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m the Graveyard Queen.
Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I’m starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.
Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll’s disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I’m being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin. (Goodreads)
Tori: First off, let’s all give a very smexy welcome to PAM! A former reviewer with Wicked Lil Pixie, Pam decided to come out of retirement to join me in extolling the greatness that is Amanda Stevens’s Graveyard Queen series. Pam and I have been fangirling this series since it first released in 2011 with book one- The Restorer. This noir paranormal series is heavily entrenched with gothic horror as Stevens brings the heat, suspense, a light romance, and supernatural aspects to life in the deep south with her lyrical voice and rich lush descriptions.
The Visitor is the long awaited 4th installment in this series. Due to personal issues, Stevens held off on publishing it but rest assured, the wait was worth it. Since there was such a long spell between books 3 and 4, below is a minor recap.
Don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled for previous works. Amelia Grey is referred to as the Graveyard Queen. A well-known restorer of cemeteries, a skill she learned at her father’s feet. She is also gifted or cursed with the ability to see and hear the dead. Ghosts are drawn to her and because of that, her father has spent his life trying to instill in her a set of rules to follow:
- Never acknowledge the dead.
- Never stray too far from hallowed ground.
- Keep your distance from those that are haunted.
- Never, ever tempt fate.
He cautions her that ghosts are nothing more than parasites who will attach themselves to you and drain you of your life force until you are nothing more than a shell waiting to die. Amelia followed these rules religiously until she met John Devlin. She opens herself to him, breaking all her rules to save his life, and places her own life in danger. Now reluctantly open to the spirits around her, Amelia gradually learns this may be her true destiny.
In The Prophet, book three, a long-running storyline is laid to rest as Amelia learns more about her family and history while using her gifts to help John Devlin lay to rest the ghosts who were riding his soul, finally giving him some peace. Or so she thinks. There is a sense of darkness and tension to him these days that Amelia fears will result in their eventual separation. We are left somewhat content with the knowledge that this is not the end but only the beginning.
The Visitor opens with Amelia being haunted by a spirit who infects her with a sense of forbidding. The spirit seems to be warning her but Amelia has no clue as to what or why. It leaves her a series of clues that suggests her life maybe in danger. When she is offered a unique chance to visit Knoll Cemetery, a private cemetery shrouded in mystery, Amelia jumps at the chance, hoping to discover who is haunting her and why. As Amelia digs deeper into the mysterious events surrounding her, she discovers that the events that lead her there may be far more insidious than she suspected and could place her and Devlin on opposite sides of an coming battle that is shrouded in their family legacies.
“You’re not the same person as when we first met, nor will be you be the same when our paths cross again. But one thing hasn’t changed. You continue to align yourself with the one man who could be your undoing.”
So Pam, wow, The Visitor builds a new storyline that left me gasping in shock and awe with each new revelation. Stevens’s amazing voice resonates throughout as she gives the relationship between Amelia and Devlin a stronger foothold and blends it effortlessly into the main conflict. As always, Stevens’s descriptions of the people, places, and things Amelia encounters are tangible entities, creating multiple goosebumps to run along my skin as she pulled me deeper into the story. I did feel the story was a little slow to start-as is usually the case when developing a brand new storyline in an existing arc. Steven’s takes her time to set up this new objective but the pace soon picks up as we become entangled in the mystery. The mystery is a convoluted layer of misdirection, deception, and betrayal. Stevens’s continues to dig deeper into Amelia’s heritage, creating a twisted family tree that will shock readers with its audacity. I know the story had you on edge, Pam. Did you see any of this coming?
“What you are, I once was. What I am, you will someday become.”
Pam: Thanks for the warm welcome, Tori! So, I’ll jump right in. With 2 babies, I really only find time to read at night, once everyone else is asleep. That being said, it took me an entire week to make it through this book, NOT because I had a hard time getting into it, but BECAUSE I KEPT GETTING SCARED! Seriously, I’d read a few chapters at night, then get so thoroughly freaked out, I would have to put the book down. The exceptionally creepy places, characters, and situations Amanda Stevens creates in this one are nothing short of outstanding. Up until now, the scariest book for me was The Kingdom, but now, it’s for sure The Visitor. Suffice it to say… I loved The Visitor. So much. The Visitor brought back everything that I fell in love with originally in the series; the sometimes unreliable narrator in Amelia, the moody haunted hero in Devlin, the spooky settings, the wonderful plot twists. Amanda Stevens is BACK, you guys!
Tori: So, I will admit The Prophet wasn’t my favorite in the series. I felt Amelia really took some steps backward after her heroic efforts in book two, The Kingdom. Her lack of rationale when it comes to Devlin pushes her to make dangerous choices concerning her sanity and her life. She seems more stable in here. A strong narrative gives us much insight into Amelia’s emotional and mental state, showing us she not only senses the changes in Devlin but also the danger he may represent. What did you think, Pam? Were you happy with Amelia’s mindset and actions in here?
“There is something disturbing in his eyes, a fleeting darkness that reminded me of legacies and expectations.”
Pam: Totally. I really empathized with her in this, particularly because we got some more backstory in her family tree. I loved how we are taken back to events that happened to her as a child and tied them in with the current plot. It was fascinating, and read so quickly. I admit that the third book in the series, The Prophet, was my least favorite in the series too. I was so excited over The Visitor because the moment I started it, I kept thinking to myself that the Graveyard Queen is not only back as a series, but is stronger than ever. When I finished, that was absolutely my sentiment.
Tori: I loved the inclusion of more characters who are just as intense and secretive as our protagonists; adding even more suspense and tension to the story. Each one adds a small piece to the puzzle Stevens’s is creating. The line between good and evil are thin in here. Everyone has a private agenda to which they subscribe to. Devlin continues to be a dark enigma whose actions invoke both hope and dread. I did notice that the intense sexual tension between Amelia and Devlin that existed in the earlier books is somewhat subdued, causing some concern for what is to come though this element has been alluded to really sense the beginning of the series. Devlin seems to be forever pushing Amelia away due to his past and in here it is stronger than ever. I can’t wait to see what the reasons are this time. I was also disappointed that every time this couple were about to have sex, they were interrupted. 0_o I don’t need sex in my books but don’t leave us hanging. *laugh*
Some issues are answered while others are not. Multiple subplots create even more questions as Stevens’s begins to set the stage for the end of the series. But, as always, the path to those answers are hidden in a maze of complexity as Ms. Stevens’s uses the past and the present to shine light on the intricate ties that bind it all together. How did you feel, Pam about the various and very creepy characters introduced? Were you comfortable with the path Stevens’s seems to be taking Devlin and Amelia?
Pam: Oh man, the secondary characters, for me, were phenomenal. They were each so carefully described, yet each mysterious and compelling in their own way. Not knowing who to trust is a huge component of The Visitor, and even some characters that turned out to be villainous, I enjoyed. I honestly enjoyed it all. The main plot played out with a NICE twist, that I did not see coming, and the sub-plots were excellently executed. Altogether, it left me dying for more.
With regards to Devlin and Amelia, Stevens foreshadows where they are going throughout the book, so the particular path they travel and the result is not too terribly surprising. It felt organic. Without spoiling too much, as much as I am a sucker for romance books that have a definitive HEA, Stevens stayed true to her characters, and I appreciate that. It left me excited to see what happens next. I do love them together, and I enjoy that we are still having to work for it (is that a spoiler, if so, remove). I felt satisfied when I completed The Visitor, and if I don’t get my hands on the next book soon, I’m going to freak! And did you see the COVER for it? OMG The Sinner needs to come out nowwwww.
In summary, the wait for this 4th book was definitely worth it. The payoff was extremely satisfying. Amanda Stevens and her Graveyard Queen series ARE BACK!
Tori: I am in perfect accord with you, Pam. Stevens stays true to the world and the protagonists and I appreciate that despite my fussiness. The Visitor was well worth the wait and I am on pins and needles for book five, The Sinner, which is slated to release September 27th. And yes, that cover is ZOMG. In fact, all of Stevens’s covers are ZOMG. Her cover designer is very talented. Captures the tone and elements perfectly.
Amanda Stevens has created a world that harkens to days past; when a ghost story wasn’t about the blood and gore but more insidious. A world where what you feel is far scarier than what you see.
Pam’s Grade: A
Tori’s Grade: B+