Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Essence of a Soul

We don't need castes and language barriers to separate us from our fellow human beings, but in the sequel to Kimberly Derting's The Pledge, Charlie finds out just how difficult it is to break down the barriers of generations worth of differences. In The Essence, we see a young woman with good intentions who struggles to shake off the pieces of her own past. 

Charlie hasn't adjusted at all to being the Queen. Not only does it feel strange for people to refer to her as "your Majesty", but everything about being the queen is difficult, even the table manners. When she defeated Sabara, she didn't expect all that embodies royalty to become her future, but then again, she didn't expect Sabara's essence to attach itself to Charlie's psyche either. While Charlie is trying to exact great change to the country she loves, Sabara is inside her trying harder and harder to gain control over Charlie's body and do what she has done for generations: rule Ludania. 

The war inside Charlie's head isn't the only one being waged. The people of her own country are turning against her and the queens of surrounding nations don't trust her. Charlie believes in what she is doing, abolishing the caste system and trying to instill equality among her people, but the people are fighting back. Even the simple act of opening a new school has become a battle field for Charlie and everyone in her wake, innocent or not. She can't control what is going on inside her head, but she won't stop trying to help the people of Ludania. 

The fact that the wars in this book are being fought on a global and on a mental scale made the story all the more intriguing. Charlie is a tough girl, but having someone inside your head, someone you didn't hesitate to kill, can't be easy. Imagine the realization that every time you let your guard down, a piece of yourself takes over and you can't stop it? It must be maddening! So the Charlie you remembered form the first book is still there, but she is being consumed by the war being waged inside her head. I really liked this angle, especially when Charlie starts to see more and more of Sabara's memories. It brought a whole new level of sophistication to the story and it kept me from putting the book down.

I think this story has a tiny bit of the sophomore stall because it really needed to take the time to transition Charlie from wayward rebel to unrefined queen. That 180 took some time, but Derting was great at making the transition while still moving the story forward. In all, I barely noticed the stall, but it was there. What I didn't get enough of with this story was more of our supporting characters like Angelina and Max and Xander. We got a lot of Brook, who I love, but I want more from everyone! They are such great characters that you want them to pull out into the spotlight so you can enjoy it. On a whole, however, I loved this book, love this series, and can't wait for the next installment!

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