Book Review: The Essence

The Essence (The Pledge #2)
Published By: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Page Count: 352
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Dystopian

I felt like The Essence never really got going. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing particularly drew me in. Charlie found out at the end of The Pledge that she was a descendant of a historical line of Queens of Ludania, and was suddenly thrust into the Monarchy in super-fast time. Unfortunately for her, the essence of the previous (pretty evil) Queen, Sabara, lurks within Charlie herself, as Sabara tried to take over her body. Charlie isn’t strong enough to extinguish Sabara, so they have to co-exist. It was an interesting premise, and I actually quite enjoyed Sabara’s mutinous mutterings, but I found her romantic longings for her immortal flame, Niko, quite off putting as she was stuck inside Charlie who herself longs for Max. So to have Charlie flailing about over Niko, when she really liked Max, was a little weird for me. 
I found that the plot was a bit aimless though compared to the tight pacing I would normally expect of Kimberly Derting. It revolves around Charlie’s decision to attend a Summit meeting for all the Queens of all the countries nearby. She hopes she can forge alliances and bring back prosperous trade agreements to Ludania, which had seriously fallen behind the times under Sabara. To get to the Summit, she has to travel beyond the borders of Ludania, through the Scablands. They were quite interesting and in truth I wish more of the book had been set there. I imagined them as being much like the Wild West; hard times and hard people. While she is passing through, Charlie catches wind of a plot against her – not everyone likes her New Equality initiative for a class-free society. So a few people die, but nothing really eventful happens despite the potential for serious strife. Charlie gets to the Summit, meets some Queens, they are not really there to discuss the things Charlie wants, and she goes home. There are a few interesting sub-characters brought into the mix, but nothing substantial.
I liked the interplay between Charlie and her ever-present bodyguard, Zafir. He is kind of long-suffering, a quality I enjoy in characters, and I thought this was a much more interesting relationship than either of the romantic ones. I found the chemistry between Sabara/Niko and Charlie/Max to be a little lacking, which is a shame because the Body Finder series has always been so zinging on that front. In The Pledge I had grown to really like Charlie’s little sister Angelina much more than Charlie, and after this instalment, I think I can say that now I feel a little apathetic about both of them; there wasn’t much character development of Angelina, except that she becomes terrified of Charlie because of the essence of Sabara lurking within.
All in all, there wasn’t a lot wrong with The Essence, but there wasn’t much to suck me in. Things happened, none of them shocking, some of them entertaining. It kept me company for a week and sadly, I think that is as strongly as I feel about this one. It’s a shame really because I just adore the Body Finder series, and this series isn’t turning out to be as strong at all for me.

“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.