Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Essence: review

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first book in the series, The Pledge. If you're planning on reading it, don't read any further!

Title: The Essence (The Pledge #2)
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: McElderry Books
Pages: 352
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: 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.

   I absolutely loved The Pledge. It was a great, engaging, and unique book, and with an outstanding ending...and then I heard it wasn't a standalone. Yeah I really hate when that happens, especially with a creepy ending like The Pledge had. It was perfect! But, I'm happy to report that I'm really glad to have gotten over my annoyance and decided to continue the series. Trilogy? Let's hope. Because The Essence is just as exciting and memorable as the first, and there wasn't even a horrible cliffy, to my relief. So here are my thoughts.

   Technically the series is dystopian. (I'm feeling some deja vu here, so bear with me:) It reads like fantasy. With the tiny bit of background about the past world, but I don't think that's the point at all. This is sounding familiar to you too, right? Well I recently read Rebel Heart and pretty much said the same thing. It's just one of those coincidences I guess! Every now and again an unusual dystopian is stumbled upon. Back to my subject: Fantasy. Charlie's new world is split up into "queendoms" which is a concept I try and try to get used to, but still let out a giggle every time I read or hear it. Which, as a feminist, I shouldn't. But it's funny sounding, right? Right. So. I really think this series could use a map. All good fantasy novels have a map of their world. Though, I liked making one up in my head because I am 90% sure this takes place in the dystopian Europe/Asia. Which is a first besides, like, Cinder.

   And there's magic! I love magic. Just thought I'd stick that thought in there. Magic. :)

   Okay, so while you're reading, try to picture where they are in your head. I am pretty sure Ludania is somewhere in mid-western Europe. Vannova's castle may be in Iceland? Some of the 'Empresses' are presumably from the middle-east/asia area, and Queen Thea is queen of 'New Rome' which is the easiest to figure out. It was kind of a game for me, while I read about Charlie meeting all the different queens at the annual summit. I'm curious to what other people got out of that, or if I just read way too much into things...

   I feel I can really relate to Charlie and her situation. She's been thrown into this life-changing situation, living somewhere else, learning different rules, running a freakin she's a little unstable. Oh, and not to mention the spirit of an evil queen is trying to take over her body? I like that she doesn't immediately become all warrior-awesome, this change of becoming queen is nothing I can't handle attitude. Because honestly, she kinda needs some help being queen. Good thing she has her body guard, Zafir. Her sword lessons are crap, and she's scared of horses. Misses the old life, and loves her sister so very much, it hurts her sometimes. She just seems real to me, and that makes her more human, respectively.

   What probably surprised me the most is the lack of romance. Don't read into that wrong, that I'm complaining, or the opposite; I'm only observing. Max, Charlie's beloved isn't in the story much, because he doesn't accompany her to the summit. This makes way for a complicated love triangle/square thingy to appear. Think: The Host. Sabara's essence is stuck inside of Charlie's mind, and Sabara is in love with this dude from like centuries ago...and since Charlie is having problems keeping in control of her body, and her mind can see where I'm going with this. I think the next (last?) book will address this even more, and have Max in the picture as well. I'm looking forward to that, because Max is really sweet, and deserves to be clued in on everything.

   I think I like this series so much because it has everything to do with language, and language is my passion, so it hit a nerve. The good kind. I can't get enough of the way she differentiates different languages and cultures, and that Charlie's 'super power' is the ability to understand all languages. I envy that soo much. Reading about it is the closest I can get to actually having that awesome ability.

   If you're trying to decide if a friend might like this series, I think it's good for fans of Star Trek (you know, I wrote that down, but I have no idea why, now. So just trust me.) Or Kristin Cashore's Graceling and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. There's plenty of gender roles switching and awesome girl-power, so if you appreciate things/writing like that, then you'll most definitely enjoy this series.

   And don't you just love these covers?? Happy reading!


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