Full disclosure! #1 – I tend to love books set in the South and most especially in South Carolina. #2 – I luvs me some ghost hunting! #3 – I am a big fan of Southern Gothic writing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Gothic
Amelia Grey, “The Cemetary Queen”, has been hired by The Daughters of Our Valiant Heroes to restore Thorngate Cemetery in the town of Asher Falls, SC. The Thorngate project gives Amelia the chance to leave behind her beloved Charleston and the memories of a recent break-up and haunting that have left her heart broken & insecure. A remote town located in the Upstate, Asher Falls is full of folklore and local secrets – the kind that no one wants to talk about. Before her project ends, Amelia will learn more about herself, the townsfolk, and just how far someone will go to preserve their legacy.
I am having a full on love/hate relationship with this book.
What I love:
- THE KINGDOM is set in the Carolina Upstate.
- The premise that Amelia Grey can see ghosts.
- A creepy town full of locals who are mysterious and secretive.
- Several intriguing story lines that build in a really suspenseful way.
What I don’t love:
- An un-believable premise about how the town came to ruin.
- An anti-climactic ending.
- Ghosts who don’t do much of anything.
Stevens has a gift for building suspense. She takes great care in creating detailed imagery and palpable tension in her scenes. In this series, her character, Amelia, can see ghosts and is deathly afraid of attracting them for fear of a creating a psychic bond which would leave her – drained? It seems as if the first book in the series actually gives one a more specific account of what happens if a ghost becomes interested in you but in The Kingdom my impression is that a ghost need only say “Boo” and our heroine would fall apart.
The Kingdom harkens back to great Southern writers like Faulkner especially ABSALOM, ABSALOM – whether by design or coincidence – I really do not know. In both cases a family patriarch, Pell Asher in THE KINGDOM, is willing to do anything to protect the family legacy. Asher has sold off a portion of the town to the government to build a reservoir and in the process cut the town off from the highway. Wait! What? This is so unlikely. No business person would ever agree to a deal like this. This became the second strike against the credibility of this story.
The reservoir is constructed by flooding a cemetery. Creepy! But the most we get out of this wonderful premise is a bunch of bell tolling.
Much like ABSOLOM,ABSOLOM Asher’s sons find themselves trapped in their father’s dream of glory and part of its demise. As Asher’s personal fortune dwindles because of his terrible business decisions, his lust for heirs grows out of control.
Before the book is over, the reader will be introduced to troubled teens, psychics, shape changers, witches and mountain magic – oh – and a dog. Our fragile heroine spends most of the time telling us how wonderful she feels inside a cemetery, as long as it is on hallowed ground, because the ghosties can’t reach her there. Which is weird because I would expect to see ghosts in a cemetery not just randomly around town. This really threw me for a loop. When she is not in the cemetery, or hiding from ghosts, Amelia is trying to solve the mystery of a young woman who died under mysteries circumstances at Asher Falls.
I did not read book 1, THE RESTORER, and after speaking with other readers, my recommendation would be to read this series in order as the events in book 2 seem to build upon book 1. This might explain why I felt lost at times as to the significance of certain references. Most of all, I felt underwhelmed by the book. In an era where the paranormal is incredibly popular in mass culture and you can find a paranormal investigator or ghost whisperer on every cable channel, this book failed to deliver a real reason to be afraid of the dead. Instead – Stevens gives you many more reasons for being afraid of the living.
This book immediately made me think that Amelia Grey is a heroine from another era. I could easily see this book being set in the sixties or seventies and Amelia would easily fit in an Ira Levin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary’s_Baby or David Seltzer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Omen type novel. She is part of that class of paranormal heroines who laid the way for the kick butt ultra empowered heroines of today’s PNR/UF novels.