I’m giving away a brand new copy of THE ESSENCE by Kimberly Derting!!! Enter through the rafflecopter which follows my review :)
From Goodreads.com: 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.
My take: It’s not hard to guess that I loved this follow up to THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting. I’d been chomping at the bit to read this sequel since I put The Pledge down, as I am with all of Derting’s books. I can’t help it, she is just such an amazing author. Her characters are so flush and full of life they can’t be ignored!
The characters that pepper the THE ESSENCE mix together to make a firecracker cast and the fact that Derting switches between point of views enables the reader to fully understand each one. Of course we stay with Charlie throughout most of the novel because she is the main character, but (and this is something completely clever and fresh from Derting) we also get Sabara who is residing within Charlie. The superb villain from The Pledge has not been defeated as much as we’d all hoped and poor Charlie is left to battle the demon within (literally) as well as take on her new role as Queen. The amount of pressure on Charlie--from her Queendom, her friends and family, and the darkness inside--is huge and quite palpable on the pages. I found myself biting my nails and worrying right along with Charlie, wondering how she’ll ever figure the massive amount of problems out, and truly thanking my stars that I’m not a Queen!
Brooklyn’s character--Charlie’s best friend and the kick ass commander of her troops--has a wonderful amount of growth throughout the sequel. She faces betrayal from all angles--one of her troops, her father, and someone close to her in a sense which I won’t name for spoilers sake. Not only that, but the poor girl has to get on a train for the first time and discover she is terribly motion sick! Having been through a life time with this terrible condition, I sympathized with her even more. :) Mixed in with the betrayal is the threats upon Charlie’s life that she must intercept and protect against and new and confusing emotions when it comes to a love interest she never even thought possible! Even as a secondary character and with only sporadic chapters from her point of view, Derting has given us a whole new set of emotions, struggles, and journeys to take.
The final character I’ll mention is Sabara and I only mention her because Derting has found a way to make this villain--someone I wanted defeated terribly in The Pledge--sympathetic! Yes, she’s made a vial, evil Queen, sympathetic. The way she does this is through Charlie’s struggles with separating herself from Sabara who resides within her. The task becomes more difficult each day and with this struggle Sabara’s past memories come to light. The reader is allowed to see a much different side to her, a completely understandable--if not morally confused--side. The intricate weaving of these two characters and their intense emotions forces the reader to ask the question, “What wouldn’t you do to live with the love of your life forever?” It’s a tough question, one in which you find yourself sympathizing with the villain, and this--coupled with all the other character’s arcs--is what makes the plot of THE ESSENCE so rich and intriguing.
And speaking of plot...
I have to mention a scene that blew my mind (if you haven’t read this please skip to the next paragraph)
There is a scene in THE ESSENCE where Charlie must make an appearance at a school where they are now allowing any child to attend. Under the previous Queen’s rule, there was a strict class system, punishable by death if broken. Once Charlie took the throne, she did away with the system, bringing forth a New Equality, where everyone was entitled to a good education and didn’t have to fear reprimand for stepping outside of their ‘class.’ As the new (and scared) students filter in to the school where before only the wealthiest of children could go, Charlie is there to encourage and support the new system. Of course, as the day goes on, terror strikes and the school is subject to bombings and physical attack. This scene was incredibly powerful and reminiscent of the time right after desegregation in our own country--taken to the extreme--and brought forth a certain realness to the severity of separation and class systems can have on a society. This was a fine and heart wrenching example of the harshness that can come from those who cannot and will not accept change...the price of which being innocent children’s blood.
I haven’t been shy about letting everyone know who my favorite author is and hopefully, from my reviews, my explanations back up my reasoning. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a child and books like this are why. Books that take you to a place you never knew you wanted to go, books that make your heart break for characters so real they give the pages a pulse, and books so fantastic I couldn’t possibly NOT tell everyone about them.