Title: The Essence
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: Jan 2013
Classification: YA Novel
Summary from Goodreads:
“Danger, dread, mystery, and romance” (Booklist) continue in the second book of The Pledge trilogy, as Charlie’s reign is under siege from the most unusual of enemies.
At the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness.
Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two.
As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.
After really enjoying the dystopian and yet historical feel to The Pledge I could not wait to get my hands on this book. I needed to know how Charlie would deal with being the new Queen of Ludania and what exactly was going to happen to the essence of the evil queen that seemed to still reside with Charlie, even after she was suppose to be dead.
The characters in this book are good. Charlie seems very real and normal, she doesn’t know how to be queen and I like that we got to see her strong side and her weak side. I would be terrified of making a mistake ruling over so many people, so it was wonderful to watch Charlie struggle with ridding a horse, making decisions for her people, and for her love of Max. I think that when you go into this book you have to connect with Charlie otherwise you will be left unhappy with the progression of this book because Charlie really is the main focus. She is separated from her friends at times so mostly we just see her with some side characters who come and go as the story sees fit. I did enjoy the few times we were able to see Max, Xander, Aron, and some other side characters from the first book. However, I felt a few times Brook got on my nerves. Her character seemed to not know what to do several times. So one moment she was happy and in charge of her troups and the next she is trying to push people away, then she is lost, then she is in control…her over reaction to everything that was going on just grated on my nerves and this time she was the only down point in the story for me.
I feel the plot in this book really shines. I love when rebels come after a kingdom or queendom as the case is in this book. I don’t know why but I always seem to love books that are historical about castles and queens and romance and I of course love watching it all fall apart when rebels think they know better than their rulers. I really enjoyed the rebel plot lines and I wanted to know who was coming after Charlie. Along with the rebels I loved, LOVED, the side plot of Sabara and Niko. This dynamic was so interesting to watch because we love to hate the “dead” queen but I couldn’t help but fall for her character and plot line. While I think Sabara has made some horrible choices in life, such as stealing queendoms away from other queens and then taking over their body, I couldn’t help but open my heart to her and Niko. I know that if I were Sabara I would be doing anything I could to stay with Niko for as long as my life line(s) allowed me to.
Overall, I highly enjoyed the plot being a little slower than some books I’ve read recently. There was plenty of action, romantic moments both with Charlie and Max and with Sabara and Niko, queendom duties, and character growth was key here. I loved watching Charlie grow and change as the book went on. I loved watching her struggle to make the people around her understand what was going on, I felt for her and when I fall for a character I know I’m hooked in the book. So for once instead of being hooked to a male leading character I’m hooked to the female lead and I can’t wait to see how she will rule, grow, change, and love in the third book.