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The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

The Kingdom is the second installment in Amanda Stevens' Graveyard Queen series featuring Amelia Grey, the cemetery restorer who sees dead people.  I'd like to share a few random observations about the series in general before I get to the review.  First of all, why does Amelia always end up working for sketchy, ill fated broads who belong to insular, secretive groups?  Also it's nice that Amelia's adventures don't always include being reluctantly sucked into murder investigations that bring her into ill advised contact with haunted detectives.  Between all the secrets (including those carried over from the previous book regarding Amelia's origins)--Amelia's, her parents', the town's, the townspeople's, the Ashers'--that people are keeping from each other or from Amelia (or both), well, I just want to yell so spill it already!  Because let's be honest if Amelia's parents, specifically her father, had been more forthcoming with her regarding her history, her origins and their shared ability to see ghosts, I don't think she'd get into the messes that she gets into and she wouldn't be flouting the rules he's instilled in her since childhood to protect her from the other side.  I mean, he might think he's protecting Amelia, but in this instance knowledge is power and what she doesn't know will hurt her eventually.

Asher Falls is a tiny, dying community whose inhabitants are insular, wary of outsiders and eccentric (to say the least).  This town has its secrets--submerged in the reservoir that flooded part of the town, including its cemetery, and buried in an anonymous but marked and clearly cared for grave isolated in the woods.  The flooding of parts of the town also served to isolate it and cut it off from the rest of world--back roads and a ferry are the only ways in or out--as the town slowly strangles and dies.  It is to Asher Falls that Amelia is called when she takes a contract to restore the town's cemetery, formerly a private, family graveyard, but given over to the town to use as its burying ground when the town cemetery was unceremoniously flooded forever.  The family cemetery was given as a penance by the man who signed the town's death warrant when he sold land to the state for the reservoir.  Since then the town cemetery has been left to nature--neglected and ignored--and is symbolic of the complicated tensions and resentments that roil under the surface between the town and the Asher family.

When Amelia arrives in town, she's met by odd, eccentric and unwelcoming townspeople, many of whom resent the Asher family, who still hold all the power in town, for what their greed wrought.  Amelia can't ignore the odd, supernatural incidents or the pervading sense of an ancient evil that permeates the town and the woods and that seems to originate from the nearby mountains; these strange occurrences seem to have coincided with her arrival.  Contract be damned, Amelia would hightail it out of Asher Falls and back to Charleston in a heartbeat if she thought the supernatural elements at work in the town wouldn't conspire to bring her back again.  So Amelia has no choice but to remain, to fulfill her contract, to find out why she's drawn to this town and who is buried in the unnamed grave in the woods.  What is her connection to this God forsaken place?  Why won't her parents tell her anything about her biological family of origin?  What waits for her in the woods in that grave?

The Greys as a family keep secrets--from outsiders and from each other.  They are a family whose individual members are separated by chasms of distance both emotional and physical, thus facilitating the secrets that her adoptive parents have long kept from Amelia.  This type of family dynamic is a little weird and bewildering.  Then there's the creepy town and its inhabitants, some of whom seem to have more than a passing knowledge of and interest in the arcane and supernatural.  Unfortunately in this instance while the sense of the presence of an ancient evil is referenced, its origins and why it's there is not explored.  In this installment we learn a little more about Amelia's background and again we also learn about cemetery customs, including hex signs (Pennsylvania Germans get a shout out!).

Fans of the supernatural will enjoy this book and series.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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