The Kingdom (Graveyard Queen #2) – Amanda Stevens

This was, very much, not what I expected. I actually started the book and put it aside, mostly because of the idea of the ghosts. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood; the eerie and creepy was not what I was looking for. Fortunately, I went back to it, and the eerie did click with what I wanted; I’d have regretted missing out on this book. This isn’t a horror novel, not by today’s standards, of spattering blood and running zombies (they were so much easier when they just shambled), but it is indeed eerie and creepy to a very satisfying degree. There may have been one night I … accidentally left a light on when I went to bed. Sheer coincidence, really.

As the book description says, Amelia Gray is called “The Graveyard Queen” for her work in restoring cemeteries. She grew up as the adopted daughter of a cemetery caretaker, and never knew anything but love for the place … up till the day she saw her first ghost. Her father, dismayed at her ability because he shared it, taught her the basics of dealing with it: first and foremost, never let on that you see a ghost, because it craves the warmth a living person has, which it once had. If it sees acknowledgement it will latch on and drain the life from you – which it can’t do unless it is recognized. Amelia has lived her life schooling her expression and reactions – she must be a rotten person to play a practical joke on.

After an anonymous contribution, an isolated South Carolina town called Asher Falls has hired her to work on the local cemetery – the currently used one, that is, since there once was another which – due to a greedy move by the local bigwig – now lies at the bottom of a lake.

The house in which Amelia is staying sits on the shore of that lake.

Yeah, the sunken graveyard is definitely haunted.

‘Nuff said.

Amelia faces not only the odd dynamics of what has become the next thing to a ghost town along with the differing reactions to her work – the sorts of things almost anyone might face – but also the ghosts, the family of the patriarch who flooded the old graveyard (still around, and creepier than most of the ghosts), and the scarred survivor of a local dog-fighting operation. (If for no other reason than that dog, I am Amelia’s biggest fan.)

I loved the characterizations. There is just no way to know who can be trusted – Amelia finds reason to doubt even her own history. Her family is all kinds of quirky, and are wonderful character sketches. The townsfolk are also quirky, only in a frequently more sinister way – their behavior is never predictable, unfortunately for Amelia. And then there was the guy with the wagon. (All right, there might have been two nights I accidentally left my light on. Three, tops.)

This was the second book in the series, but the first I’ve read, and it stood on its own very well. It was also very good at the job a preview galley is supposed, to wit, making me want the first book in the series and all others hereafter. There were some spoilers for the first book, but by and large they were of the sort that just increased my interest in the rest of the story rather than rendering it unnecessary to read: well done. In fact, in terms of providing necessary background in such a way as to keep my head in the current book, avoid info-dump, and plant the seed of you really need to go read that book too, this is one of the best executed second books I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait for more.

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