HomeReviewReview: The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a person who enjoys cemeteries that much.  There are a few that I’ve visited that have been peaceful, but then there’s also the one south of town that exudes a decidedly creepy aura.  What it boils down to is that I’m just not that comfortable with the idea of death, and you can’t get much closer to death than in a boneyard!  However, I do admit that older cemeteries hold a certain fascination, and author Amanda Stevens plays into that feeling with her Graveyard Queen series.  The most recent addition, The Kingdom, is a gripping and eerie tale of ghosts past and present.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town…

My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.”

When I saw that this book was coming out, I was pretty excited.  The original book, The Restorer, was a unique blend of mystery and romance, with the flavor of the South and a healthy dose of cemetery symbolism thrown in for good measure.  It was that symbolism that drew me in, because it opened the door to a whole different view of gravestones and the differing ways that our culture commemorated death in years past.  It’s almost like a code, and do love mysterious codes.

It’s interesting, then, to note that The Kingdom is quite a different novel from its predecessor.  It still has the same air of mystery, and it still involves cemeteries, but this one felt like much more of a ghost story to me.  The scenes in which the sunken cemetery disgorges its ghosts and muffled bells ring out from under the water are honestly creepy, and the glimpses that we do get of that drowned resting ground only add to the feeling.  This isn’t a murder mystery in the same way that the other book is; rather, there is a death to be uncovered, but that isn’t the main focus.

Instead, readers get something that I wasn’t expecting for at least another book: the story of Amelia’s parentage and background.  Once it became clear that some answers were forthcoming, my nose was firmly planted in the book, and I didn’t come up for air for quite some time.  The answers to Amelia’s powers, at least in part, are rooted in old folklore, so astute readers may be able to ferret out the answers before the big reveal.  Even if you do, I doubt it will detract from your enjoyment of the story.

The other thing that works well for me as a reader is how skillfully Stevens details the location of her tale.  I have never been further into the South than San Antonio, Texas, but I feel like I have an understanding of the sounds, smells and life rhythm of the area.  I attribute that to the author’s solid yet evocative writing, because my imagination had a field day with what Amelia’s world must be like.  For me, the vivid backdrop helped me to get even deeper into the story.

By turns quietly eerie and wildly heart-pounding, The Kingdom once again demonstrates that even something as quiet as a cemetery can hold a world of secrets waiting to be unearthed.  And lucky me, I am also getting a glimpse of the next novel, The Prophet, a little early.  It’s a lucky break for me, because it means I don’t have to wait any longer to find out what happens next!  The eagerness with which I snap up these books should tell you a lot about how good they are.

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