Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Tread carefully…trust no one.”
Amanda Stevens’s Graveyard Queen series is a dark paranormal mystery suspense series that is drenched in southern style gothic horror. Even five stories in, Stevens’s powerful voice continues to wrap her readers in a chilling embrace as she gently guilds them through her world of spirits, superstition, and death with lush descriptions and delightful prose. Strong characterization, steady pacing, and intriguing narrative adds to the appeal of this addictive protagonist and the path she is reluctantly being drawn down.
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m the Graveyard Queen.
Fans will remember in the previous book that Amelia was being haunted by a spirit of young woman who leads her to uncover some shocking revelations about her family. She and her paranormal skeptic boyfriend, Detective Devlin, become embroiled in a supernatural battle, forcing her to bargain with a devil to bring Devlin back from the dead. These events led to Devlin leaving the police force and Amelia.
Amelia has now decided to take a restoration job out-of-town in order to get away from Charleston and all reminders of Devlin. While working in the Seven Gates Cemetery, she stumbles upon a circle of mortsafes-caged graves-one of which shows the hands of a young woman who looks to have been buried alive. Amelia contacts the local police and discovers one of the detectives is a ghost seeker like herself. As Amelia is dragged deeper into the mystery surrounding the graves and the town itself, an old enemy comes to Amelia demanding her services and offering a warning. There are forces at work who will do anything to make sure their secrets stay buried…even if it means burying Amelia with them.
The Sinner is the fifth installment and the second to the last book in this series though Stevens has informed readers she may be writing a spin-off. You can read more about it here. The Sinner takes place one year after the events in The Visitor. More potent, dark, and mysterious than previous installments, Stevens’s is starting to pull all the loose pieces together in order to show us exactly what Amelia is and where her destiny lies. Her gifts have been changing since she threw off the shackles of the rules her father impressed upon her as a child.
The days of pretending that ghosts didn’t exist were long behind me as were the rules that once protected me. I had entered a new phase of my life, accepting if not embracing who I was and what I was meant to be.
She has broken every one of those rules many times over and has evolved from a ghost seer to a death walker to a detective for the dead. But her evolution has not gone unnoticed. There are groups out there, long steeped in tradition and legend, that Amelia threatens with her existence. As Amelia digs deeper into the roots of these groups, looking for their connection the graves and horrific secrets that surround this small town, she is reminded that no one is what they seem and the only person she can trust is herself.
Amelia’s world is a frightening one and Stevens uses that to heighten readers senses of the unknown; using our own fears against us. Emotions run high as Amelia continues to be a somewhat unreliable narrator at times, something she is more than aware of. The past and present continuously bleed together, leaving Amelia unsure if what she sees and experiences are real or a form of spiritual manipulation. Being charged with defeating a centuries old evil entity leaves her fearing for her own sanity.
“You’ve been through an ordeal,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder how you manage to keep your sanity.”
I smiled. “You’re assuming that I have.”
The edgy often frustrating romance is nothing more than a painful memory at this moment though that memory commands a very strong presence in this installment. Everything Amelia has done, every risk she has taken, every heartbreak she has suffered has been due to John Devlin and her love for him. As information comes to light, Amelia finally reaches the point where she must make a choice rather than allow Devlin to keep making them for her. Their relationship remains an emotional roller coaster of secrets, deceptions, and omissions as they both struggle with the ties that bind them to their respective family legacies and place them on opposite sides of what’s coming.
“… you’re still trying to run away from who you are and what you are meant to be.”
Stevens keeps the secondary characters on a short leash. Any new faces introduced are firmly entrenched in the current mystery and do not show any signs of spilling over into the main arc. Their characterization is as intensely secretive as our protagonist; adding the suspense, tension, and horror of the story. Multiple subplots allow for more even deception as Stevens firmly wraps up mystery while keeping readers delicately balancing on the edge, unsure how this will all play out.
This series has only continues to improve and The Sinner more than exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait for The Awakening-set to release March 2017. I commend Stevens for continuously staying true to the protagonist and the elements in play. Fans of haunting southern gothic horror that speaks of those who exist in a world between the living and dead will enjoy Amanda Stevens’ series-The Graveyard Queen.