My first impression of The Essence, the sequel to The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, wasn’t the best. I struggled to get back in the story of Charlie, now Queen of Ludania, and her new life with her friends in the Palace.
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.
For some reason, I couldn’t remember who was who in this story, and Derting didn’t do a recap of her characters. I was a bit lost. Along those same lines, the characters from the first book are totally different in the second simply because now they have official titles and duties in the palace working for Charlie. This made it seem a bit forced from a character development aspect; I just couldn’t believe that her best friends were now her guard and important officials for an entire country.
The story itself is a grand adventure. Charlie is traveling to the Summit to meet other Queens and discover new lands. During this process, someone is out to kill her. There was a strong element of mystery in this book and Derting alternated point of views, including the mysterious “killer,” which confused me in the end. There seemed to be no purpose to that character’s point of view. It didn’t add anything to the story, which made it seem like a token literary trick.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but I didn’t love it. The romance between Charlie and Max was still electric but there wasn’t much of it. There’s a blooming romance concerning Charlie’s best friend Brook, which was intriguing, but it came on so suddenly. I was so surprised; I must have missed some plot points earlier in the novel, or maybe they just weren’t there. I felt like this story was original but I couldn’t connect to the characters, even with the new element of alternating point of views.
The ending was very buttoned up. There was even an epilogue, which I found strange for the second book in a trilogy. Maybe I was expecting a cliffhanger? Derting provided enough build-up for the next book, leaning towards the whisperings of war. The last chapter left me with a happy feeling and I’m hoping for a LOT more of that next time.
Unfortunately, I had a really hard time wrapping my mind around this book but I still want to finish the series. The last installment of the trilogy is untitled and will release in 2014. I’m hoping I can understand the characters better in the next book.
STARS: 2.5 out of 5