The Essence by Kimberly Derting

Synopsis:
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.

Review:
Charlie is still the same humble girl from before she was queen. But now she battles the malevolent former queen from inside her own head. This is like multiple personality disorder, but where both personalities are aware of each other. The rising unrest within her own country must take a backseat when Charlie decides to join the summit of the neighboring realms. Then, on the way to summit it becomes clear that there is a traitor in their midst. Charlie is completely out of her element surrounded by the other queens, but because of her innocence and humility, she still seems to be welcomed. And suddenly Charlie’s relationship with Max becomes complicated when she begins to feel a pull towards someone she has just met.

This is an absorbing and moving sequel to last year’s The Pledge. Derting weaves a complex plot with engaging characters. Full of suspense, intrigue, drama, and a bit of romance – The Essence is a fantastic novel that is nearly impossible to put down. Just as enjoyable as the first, this sequel builds to an exciting conclusion that left me pining for the next (and final) installment in this unique dystopian fantasy trilogy.

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