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Monday, January 13, 2014

Derting's Dystopian Series Continues to Satisfy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Essence, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Pledge.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Now that Queen Charlaina di Heyse—Charlie, as she prefers to be called—sits on Ludania's throne, it's time to implement all the changes she's been dreaming about since she was a girl.  She abolishes her country's demeaning caste system, encourages all citizens to speak one language, outlaws public hangings, and looks to neighboring countries for ideas on how to modernize her struggling land.  Charlie can't imagine anyone not embracing such improvements, but there's a growing faction that wants things back the way they were.  And the rebels will stop at nothing—not even assassination—to get what they want.

As trouble in Ludania goes from bad to worse, Charlie's desperate to keep her head in the game.  The problem?  Although she fought infiltration from the essence of cruel Queen Sabara, she didn't quite triumph over her old nemesis.  Not 100%.  Sabara's still inside her, whispering to Charlie, urging her to let Sabara—a cunning and experienced ruler—take over.  It would be so easy to give in, to allow Sabara to make all the decisions, but Charlie refuses to let that happen.  She cannot let Sabara's particular brand of evil out to play.  To keep her contained, Charlie must grapple with the insidious voice inside of her.  And she can tell no one—not even Max—what lives inside her.

With her country on the brink of war, Charlie travels to a summit of queens.  As inexperienced as she is, she will need all her wits about her to handle them.  Especially knowing a traitor dwells in her midst.  Charlie's advisers can't help her.  But there is one who can—if only Charlie will succumb to the enticing whispers of Queen Sabara's ancient essence, if only she'll hand over her Queendom to the one who ruled it with an iron fist.  For the good of Ludania, will Charlie finally give in?

When I first read The Pledge, the initial book in Kimberly Derting's YA dystopian trilogy, I was impressed by the original touches the author brought to a genre that seems to grow staler by the minute.  The second read-through didn't blow me away quite as much, but I still found myself enjoying the story.  Re-reading its predecessor did make the next novel in the series, The Essence, much more exciting for me.  And yet, the tale loses a lot of its freshness in the second installment.  Character development continues to be a problem, especially among the men, most of whom are completely interchangeable.  Despite all that, I had a hard time putting The Essence down.  The book's got plenty of action, plenty of romance, plenty of adventure—plenty to hold a reader's interest.  The Essence isn't my favorite dystopian book ever, nor is this one of my favorite post-apocalyptic series of all time, but both are intriguing enough to satisfy.  So, yeah.

(Readalikes:  The Pledge and The Offering by Kimberly Derting)


If this were a movie, it would be rated: 

for language (no F-bombs), violence and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find



  1. I have read a lot of series like this one. I keep reading the books and enjoy them well enough even though I am not totally blown away by the books.

    1. Yep, that's exactly how I feel about this series. Good, but not amazing.

  2. This is a series I'd like to try, but alas so many books on my TBR list! That book cover is so appealing.

    1. Those darned TBR lists! I wouldn't have made this series a priority either, except that I'm on a blog tour for the final book and I wanted to re-read the first one and read the second one before the third. Otherwise, it probably would have sat on my TBR list for awhile.


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