The Graveyard Queen Series by Amanda Stevens
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*There’s a prequel novella (#0.5) that isn’t available as an audiobook, so it’s not included in this review. Hopefully, it will one day be recorded. I’m dying to hear it!
• RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:
Southern Gothic, Karen White’s Tradd Street series, Ghost stories, Horror, Cemeteries
• SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 16+
• Individual ratings & reviews:
◦ The Restorer (#1): 4.5 stars
Full review here.
◦ The Kingdom (#2): 3.75 stars
Full review here.
◦ The Prophet (#3): 4 stars
After discovering the series in October and finishing the first two installments that same month, it took me nearly 8 months to return to The Graveyard Queen. I loved The Restorer, but The Kingdom wore my patience thin enough that I needed a break from the series.
But the Summer always brings me back around to the Southern Gothic genre. I didn’t have the energy to search for a new Southern Gothic series (they can be hard-to-find), so I picked up The Prophet. Luckily for me, each installment in this series centers around a new (episodic) mystery. I was glad to see Amelia return to Charleston and even more glad to see her get away from Asher Falls. I’m glad she didn’t spend another book there. I appreciate the importance of The Kingdom to the series since it essentially functions as Amelia’s origin story, but for me it was more an installment to “get through” rather than to enjoy.
The Prophet dealt more with the Lowcountry’s version of magic, which is exactly my style. It showed flashes of what I loved about The Line and it was enough to whet my appetite for more of the series. The Prophet renewed my interest and my faith in Amanda Stevens and The Graveyard Queen. By the time I finished it, I was determined to finish out the series in quick succession.
◦ The Visitor (#4): 3.75 stars
The Visitor may have been the creepiest installment in this series and that’s saying a lot. Like The Kingdom, it explored another side of Amelia’s heritage. Believe it or not, The Visitor had a creepier angle than The Kingdom. Creepy or spooky is the perfect way to describe Stevens’ writing. It’s not necessarily outright scary. It’s never caused me to stay awake at night. But I definitely get spooked while listening.
Amanda Stevens has atmospheric writing down to a science. Curiously enough, the graveyard scenes are among the less spooky. For Amelia, cemeteries are a place of peace. She makes a point of emphasizing that she believes it’s people who are haunted, not places. Therefore, the hauntings can happen anywhere. Stevens also excels at using the five senses to enhance the experience of having a sixth sense. Amelia’s sightings are often accompanied by particular scents (like cloves, in The Visitor) and/or sounds, sometimes even physical sensations.
The Visitor was my second least favorite installment in this series and yet it divulges critical information about Amelia’s heritage and her gift. However, the unfolding of that information felt somewhat fumbly. No matter how much I adore Amanda Stevens’ ability to create such richly tangible settings, I still find her storytelling ability to be slightly subpar. It feels like she struggles to find balance between world building/character development (which she does amazingly) and plot progression. This causes almost all of her endings to seem rushed and thrown together. But by the time I finished The Visitor, I knew I was too far into the series to turn back. On to the next…
◦ The Sinner (#5): 4.25 stars
The Sinner was a weird one for me. For a while, I thought we were going to be dealing with zombies, but that angle never really came to fruition. When the series started out, there were the living and the dead (ghosts), but now we are entering a gray area with beings that are “something in between”. There was talk of an occult group that practiced necromancy, so I was sure zombies were the logical conclusion. They weren’t…, exactly. To be honest, I’m not sure what the plot conclusion was. Resolutions aren’t Amanda Stevens’ strong point.
The book’s ending, however, got my attention. My interest in the romantic angle of this series had been slowly growing over the last two books. I’ll admit that I didn’t see the break up coming. It was a nice curveball. I liked seeing insertion of a love triangle in The Visitor. I never felt the chemistry between Amelia and Devlin, so I was excited to see another player enter the scene and the end result of that triangle really threw me for a loop.
The end of the series is in sight, so I’m overlooking plot holes and leaning into the atmospheric richness. It’s perfect for listening during a Summer afternoon thunderstorm. It’s nice to see that Stevens isn’t afraid to contradict the obvious assumptions. So much of this series was beginning to seem formulaic. Her new approach is keeping me on my toes, but the new covers are making me cringe…
◦ The Awakening (#6): 4.5 stars
Besides The Restorer, The Awakening may have been my favorite installment in this series. The installments that are set in Charleston are always the best. Stevens’ atmospheric writing lends itself so easily to world building that Charleston feels like home for the series.
A lot of things culminated in The Awakening and a lot of loose ends were finally tied up. By the end of the book 5, I was fully invested in the Amelia+Devlin pairing. Although, I still haven’t warmed to Devlin individually, I’m beginning to ship them as a couple. The disconnect I feel with Devlin stems from his refusal to believe in the supernatural, even though it’s clearly all around him. I thought for sure that he would come around by the series’ end, but I was disappointed. It seems that there is still some character growth needed there, which is one of a few things that makes me believe (and hope!) that a spinoff series is in our future.
But the major thing that leads me to believe we haven’t seen the last of The Graveyard Queen is the glaring cliffhanger ending Stevens left us with. It would have been excellent fodder for an epilogue, otherwise. Let’s just say that my “spinoff Spidey senses” are tingling!
🎙 Narration Review: Khristine Hvam
Khristine Hvam has got to be one of my most frequently heard narrators. I’ve heard her narration so much that I’ve just about run out of ways to praise her. Hvam does way more right than she’s ever done wrong in the recording booth. And she did 9 out of 10 things right with this series.
The one thing I just couldn’t “cotton” to was her Southern accent. She gave an admirable effort, though. But even though artificial sweetener may be sweet, it’s just not the real thing! And before you think that I (as a native North Carolinian) judging too harshly, let me say that there are southern accents done by narrators that I have approved. Hvam’s definitely wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t the best of either. There were some minor pronunciation issues and inconsistencies that briefly bothered me (i.e. Goodwine was pronounced inconsistently throughout the series). Because of these issues, this series wasn’t my favorite of Hvam’s work and I’m not sure that it adequately showcases her talent as other titles do, but she still did it justice.
Accent aside, Hvam added so much to the telling of this tale. She truly is a talented and intuitive narrator. Until hearing this series, I think I had underestimated the impact of a narrator’s tone, pacing, and inflection. These are the things I only ever think of when they take away from the story, but Hvam’s interpretation added to the atmospheric presence of the series, making it a truly immersive experience. She was an excellent match for Stevens’ writing.
OVERALL SERIES RATING:
Reviewer’s Note: This first three installments in this series are only available on audiobook through Audible.com. If you are interested in giving it a shot (which I totally recommend!), but don’t yet have an account with Audible, consider signing up through the banner below to get an extra audiobook with your free trial. Doing so will give me a small commission, but won’t cost you anything.
To sum up: You can get the first two installments of this series (or any other two audiobooks) for free and help support The Audiobookworm!