Series: The Pledge, #2
Release Date: January 1st, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Number of Pages: 352
Rating: 4 stars
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.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for The Pledge
And the streak of sequels that outshine their predecessors continues!
This time the streak is continued with, obviously, The Essence, sequel to The Pledge which, while I enjoyed overall, left me with mixed feelings. However, despite The Pledge leaving me with mixed feelings, I went into The Essence with high expectations after the conclusion of The Pledge, and I am thrilled to say that most if not all of those high expectations were met by the time I turned the last page of The Essence.
The Essence takes place shortly after the explosive conclusion of The Pledge; Charlaina is now the reigning queen of Ludania after defeating - sort of... - the previous and notoriously harsh queen Sabara. However, Sabara's Essence is now trapped inside of Charlaina, setting her skin aglow, and, more importantly, letting Sabara have access - and manipulate - Charlaina's thoughts and actions. As a new queen, Charlaina travels to a gathering to meet with the queens of nearby queendoms, but soon enough things begin to go awry as body counts start piling up, and she soon finds herself consulting to the very person she wants to consult least - Sabara - for help.
The Essence is stronger than The Pledge in almost every way imaginable; the plot is much more fascinating, fast paced, and bears higher stakes, the characters are met with more character development and are more likable - even Sabara! - and the romance is no where near as large of an element in The Essence as it was in The Pledge.
One of the things I appreciated most about The Essence was that, while Charlaina is now the new queen of Ludania, she still managed to remember where she came from, and remember the people who helped her get where she is, and was able to keep the same relationships now as a queen as she had before she was a queen. Because of this, among other things, I found Charlaina to be much more of a likable and multi-layered character in this installment than she was in The Pledge, and I also absolutely loved how Derting added such character development and background to the character of Sabara, making her, like I had mentioned before, almost - if not entirely - likable.
Derting's writing in The Essence is, as always, completely and utterly breathtaking, and her descriptions are so stunningly detailed and gorgeous that I can't help but be jealous of her writing skill and her ability to truly paint a picture inside a reader's head, exhibit A:
Stark and harsh, a daunting fortress of towers and turrets and spires, all dusted in ice and rising above a thick layer of frozen fog that made it appear as if it was the only thing that existed on the entire snowbound isle. As if the palace itself were crafted from the great glacier that rose from the water.And while I found there to be quite a few pacing issues, most notably towards the second half, but also in scattered portions throughout the first and second halves, I think that might just be the only negative thing I have to say about The Essence, though that one negative played a pretty significant part in my enjoyment in the story, and is the most prominent reason it took me so long to finish it.
However, with the pacing issues aside, I found The Essence to be a worthy sequel to The Pledge, outshining it in execution tremendously. Ending in another explosive ending that is entirely satisfying yet leaves the reader wanting more, I thoroughly look forward to reading the final book in The Pledge trilogy, and who knows, maybe it'll be even better than this.