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REVIEW: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

Dear Ms. Stevens,

I don’t often read many thrillers, but I picked up a previous novel of yours a couple years back. In fact, I think I may have reviewed it here on DA! (Yup, I did.) Although the details of the book have long since become fuzzy, I do remember having a generally positive reaction to it. So when I found your latest novel in a recent package from Jane, I was hopeful. More so when I discovered the premise of your new trilogy. (Why is everything a trilogy these days?)

the restorer amanda stevensAmelia Gray is the Graveyard Queen. Like her father, she has the ability to see ghosts. This is something of a family secret, in that they don’t share the existence of their abilities with her mother. That said, I have my suspicions that she knows something’s up. Amelia’s father was a cemetery caretaker and Amelia herself grew up to become a cemetery restorer. Some people may find this morbid. I find the unusual occupation interesting (though I admit I’m also a bit morbid myself), but I do wonder about the choice to work in cemeteries when you can see ghosts!

Thanks to her father, Amelia follows a set of strict rules when it comes to ghosts. The main one is to pretend you don’t see them. In the world of The Restorer, ghosts are parasites that feed off the life force of the living. If you acknowledge their presence, they will attach themselves to you and it will be near-impossible to get rid of them. As an extension of this rule, she also makes a point to avoid people who have ghosts attached to them. After all, to become attached to someone who has ghosts attached to them means that you are in effect inviting those ghosts into your life. Until now, Amelia’s life has been carefully constructed to minimize ghostly contact.

That all changes with her latest project. Amelia has been hired to restore an old college graveyard that’s long since fallen into disrepair. No big deal, right? But shortly after Amelia starts the project, a young woman’s corpse is found in the graveyard. The investigation slows down Amelia’s work, much to the displeasure of her client, but matters take a turn for the worse when more bodies are found. And unfortunately for her, clues rest in the symbolism on the headstones located near the corpses, which means Amelia’s help is needed to identify and catch the killer.

I really enjoyed reading about a protagonist with such an unusual occupation. How often do you read about cemetery restorers? Amelia even had a blog that’s gained her a cult following that’s dubbed her the Graveyard Queen! I couldn’t help but find that cool. It’s not that I’m hating on characters with more everyday occupations, but it’s nice to read about something different once in a while. It added something to a novel that already had a spooky atmosphere to it. I loved that aspect.

I do still wonder about why someone who makes a point to avoid ghosts would work in a place sure to have at least one though. From what I understood, hallowed grounds are special (Amelia is safe from ghosts on hallowed ground) and not every graveyard has them. I’m also anxious to find out more about Amelia’s family. It’s obvious both her mother and aunt know more than they let on, and that her father is keeping more secrets from her, ones that would probably benefit her if she knew. Family secrets intrigue me so I hope more of this is addressed in the next two books.

Amelia’s relationship with Devlin was interesting, although I found Devlin something of a cipher. That probably couldn’t be helped since the narrative is told through Amelia’s first person perspective, but he was tough to figure out at times. I think I find myself more fascinated by Amelia’s interactions with Devlin’s ghosts (of his wife and daughter). It’s interesting that they knew right away that she could see them and that the daughter tried to interact with her. I’m also curious about the reasons why Devlin seems to drain Amelia’s energy in a similar way that ghosts are supposed to drain the people they attach themselves to. I suspect this will become more of an issue in the following books as Devlin will have to choose between the living and the dead.

The mystery itself also held my attention. This wasn’t a case where I could immediately identify the culprit. It took me nearly until the end of the book to figure it out. I’m sure readers more well-versed with mystery tropes will have an easier time than me. In some respects, the circumstances surrounding the killer and the motivations behind why they did what they did seemed a little far-fetched and convenient, but I am curious to see what happens next. Amelia can’t go back to the way she was before — not with her feelings for Devlin who has two very determined ghosts attached to him, not with the surprisingly high body count among her friends and colleagues, and not with the mystery of her family. I’m curious to see how the events of this book change the relationships with her friends and family.

I found The Restorer to be an atmospheric and creepy read. Horror aficionados like me will probably enjoy that quality of the book. But for those readers who shy away from horror and its various incarnations, don’t worry. It’s a mild sort of spooky, nothing extreme or explicitly gory. (The way the murder victims died wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t described in detail.) I thought this was a good start to a trilogy, and I look forward to more of Amelia’s adventures. B

My regards,
Jia

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

9 Comments

  1. Kim in Hawaii
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 14:11:59

    Mahalo for the thorough review! Ms. Stevens will be my guest on Friday at my blog. I had promised to share a story about Ancient Hawaiian graveyards with her … and I’ll share with you. Prior to the conversion to Christianity in the 1820s, the Hawaiians practised their own religion. The Ali’i (chiefs) were buried in the mountain cliffs by a servant dangling from a rope. When he was done, the rope was cut and he plunged to his death – a honor in the Hawaiian culture. His death insured that the bones of the Ali’i would not be distrurbed. So the mountains serve as the “graveyards” for the ancient Hawaiians.

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  2. Asable
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 16:15:44

    Thanks for the great review! I’m always on the lookout for great mysteries, especially ones that seem to have some “outside the box” elements (so hard to find these days.) Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy …

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  3. JoannaV
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 14:01:17

    Great review. And I just noticed, there is currently a free ebook/story prequel available for this book at Amazon. It’s called The Abandoned. I don’t know if it’s available for other ereaders but it’s worth looking if you don’t have a kindle.

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  4. Maura
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 15:37:11

    Sounds interesting- I love cemeteries and I’ll add this to my TBR.

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  5. LisaCharlotte
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 18:53:37

    There is a prequel at Amazon to this novel that i downloaded to my iphone last night. FREE!!

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  6. Jia
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 06:48:21

    Thanks for mentioning the free prequel, everyone!

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  7. Jenny Penny
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 14:31:12

    As someone who does cemetery restoration, this is an instant addition to my TBR pile! Thanks for the review!

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  8. DS
    Oct 31, 2011 @ 07:47:18

    I nearly gave up in the middle. In fact I put the book down for over a week after the POV character did something supremely cliched. However, I really liked the ghost story as well as her relationship with her family. Ms Stevens managed to come up with some quite good description of psychic events as well as some ghoulish ideas. It started as a nice creepy October read. I also think she did a good job with the city of Charleston, SC.

    The resolution to the mystery was rushed though. Maybe it was an effort to control the length of the book. However, the solution to the mystery part–

    spoiler

    I tried to put some white space here but
    it was closed up by the
    text box which is why I am putting
    in some maundering around to keep
    it from spoiling anyone who doesn’t
    want to be.

    Making the murderer the only unattractive character in the potential suspects– I started to imagine him played by Peter Lorre– was lazy. She also threw in some very old red herrings. There are misdirections that have been used so often that they just don’t work when they are used straight.

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  9. REVIEW: The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 04:07:36

    [...] enjoyed your previous novel, The Restorer, about the self-styled Graveyard Queen, Amelia Gray. It’s a morbid name but a fitting one. Amelia [...]

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