Author: Kimberly Derting
Release: January 1st 2013
Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy, Paranormal, YA
#2 in the Pledge trilogy
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.
Not as good as the first one, but still kicking ass. Very much ass. And I still loved it.
While there weren't as many plot twists that I didn't see coming, there was still a lot of suspense and tension. So much in fact, that even I was getting impatient, holding my breath together with the characters, and while I knew who the assassin would be right from the start, I was screaming at them to just face the darn facts already! It's that person. Now stop them already! But nooo, they didn't hear me. And it was a battle to the last page until the bomb would drop and damn, the explosion was spectacular.
There was so much more darkness during this book. That might have something to do with how the last book ended, with Sabara's essence still living on within Charlie, but still... I already said in my Pledge review that I didn't think Charlie was as innocent as she appeared to be. That she had her dark side as well, and boy, did it come out in this one. I love this kind of conflict within a character and it was awesome to follow her struggles and see her squirm like that. Not that I'm a masochist, I really ached for her and was encouraging her to stay strong, but it made for a thrilling reading experience. Charlie was trying to see the difference between her very own darkness and the one Sabara has inflicted upon her, and it was a hard waged war warring within her. Very masterfully executed by Derting.
So, Charlie was different. She had a lot of development during this book and I am so looking forward to seeing her come to terms with how she's evolved in the next and final book. Or finding a solution, I don't know. I thoroughly enjoyed her throughout The Essence, she was such an amazing and enticing character. Brooklynn had a lot of characterization again, too, and I like her even more now. She only got better. Max didn't get as much screen time, as is actually usual for second books somehow, but I still found him enticing and a great character. He's awesome. Then there's Zafir, who is getting more screen time, and I really liked getting to know more about him. His protective and silent nature had something mysterious about it, while he was still being an open book to read, and it was a paradox, I had no choice but to like this guy. Then there's the summit where we meet a few new queens, and I especially loved Queen Neva and the relationship formed between her and Charlie. I have a feeling Neva will play an important part in the next book.
The romance though! While I feared for a triangle between Aron, Charlie and Max in the first novel, I now feared for one between Max, Charlie and Niko. Or Aron, Brooklynn and Sebastian. Thankfully, though, none of that, either. While there was something like a love triangle between the former trio, I think it was reasonably justified and added a great extra layer of suspense to the story. That doesn't mean I have to like how it all turned out, though... I am very deprived of Max/Charlie action now. And I can't wait to see them getting their romance full on in The Offering. They're quickly becoming one of my favorite couples.
Ahh, the writing was really nice in this one. There was one line especially that, somehow, took my breath away, because it was formulated so lovely. I don't know if I'm weird for admiring this, but I did. And then there were other really beautiful moments, like this one:
“Oh Charlie, when will you realize: we've never matched. It's what makes us perfect for each other.”
OH THE FEELS. The feels. Especially since these relationships, literally all of them, be it Brookylnn/Charlie, Max/Charlie or Angelina/Charlie, they were tested and scraped raw till nothing was left. I am so excited to see how they're going to pick up the pieces and fix what can't be broken. I mean, come on, relationships like these... it's all so complex.
But beside beautiful writing, there was some comical relief as well, which I was surprised by. There hadn't seemed to be much humor in the first book, or if there was, I hadn't noticed. But The Essence made a lot of successful attempts at jokes, like this scene that really made me laugh:
“A sip. Two at the most. It's for tasting mostly, not drinking.”
“Then why are they serving it in glasses?”
He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. “To drink, of course.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose; I was clearly getting nowhere.
So much happened. So much development, for both characters and their relationships within each other and I am simply overwhelmed. The wait for the next book will be very difficult...