Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #10: The Essence

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #10: The EssenceThe Essence by Kimberly Derting
Series: The Pledge #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on January 1, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

“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.

Recommended by: Blythe of Finding Bliss in Books

First Sentence: “He approached respectfully, cautiously.”

As anyone who has read my review of The Pledge knows, I was not a big fan. I had absolutely no intention of reading the sequel, but such are the joys of the Sadie Hawkins feature. Blythe wanted me to read this, so here we are. On the plus side, I didn’t dislike The Essence the way I did The Pledge, largely due to the decrease in romance, but I still don’t think this series is particularly impressive.

One part of The Essence is super cool, and that is Charlie’s relationship to the queen she displaced. At the end of The Pledge, Charlie took over from Sabara, but, in so doing, Sabara’s essence became part of Charlie. Now, Charlie can here Sabara’s voice in her head, and dreams Sabara’s memories. In moments of weakness, Sabara can even assume control of Charlie’s body for brief periods of time and sway Charlie’s emotions.

The interplay between Charlie and Sabara is fascinating, and it’s the sort of mindfuckery that I appreciate greatly. Charlie can never be entirely trusted, and her feelings can be hard to separate from Sabara’s. I like, too, that Sabara becomes a bit more complex and sympathetic here than she was before, as Charlie dives into her memories. Similarly, Charlie becomes more interesting as Sabara’s presence in her mind starts pushing her into a crazy, evil direction. Charlie’s character arc reminds me of Anakin slowly sliding into Darth Vader, which is awesome.

What made me dislike The Pledge so was the pathetic, illogical world building (which is still weak) and the romance, which is nauseating. Thankfully, Sabara messes with some of the fairy tale perfection of Charlie’s relationship with Max. Even better, they’re hardly together during the course of the book. The few romance scenes that do transpire are pretty cheesy and eyeroll-inducing, but are kept to a minimum.

For the most part, though, the awesome mind stuff aside, there’s really not a whole lot that happens in this book, other than Charlie being an utterly crap queen. Though I admire Charlie’s goal of removing the punishing social hierarchy, she does so in a really stupid way: all at once. Nor does she have the infrastructure prepared to deal with backlash. Surprise, things don’t go well. She spends the whole book ineffectually running from an assassin and trying to avoid having to go to her queen lessons. Despite skipping her lessons and remembering the few she attended, she is praised by everyone, except the ones who want to kill her, for her marvelous queenship. She’s just speshul that way.

The perspective largely follows Charlie in first person, but does switch to a couple of other characters in third person limited. I’m rarely a fan of this technique, and this is no exception. The reason she’s done this is because Brooklynn, Charlie’s friend and the head of her guard, split up for much of the novel. Still, I find some of the perspective-hopping entirely needless. For example, there was one scene from the perspective of the mole in the guard, intended to add tension, but that could have been conveyed just as effectively by someone finding the body. I’m a firm believer in not hopping into a perspective just once, and, if she needed both Brooklyn’s and Charlie’s, going with first person on both would seem a wiser choice.

All told, I wouldn’t say this was a terrible book, but I still really can’t personally recommend this series, because there’s so much better out there to be read. A resounding meh to The Essence.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Oh, Charlie, when will you realize: We’ve never matched. It’s what makes us perfect for each other.'”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Sever by Lauren DeStefano, selected by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. I know who you are though, and you know the expression on my face.

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

29 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #10: The Essence”

  1. Yeah, I absolutely hated The Pledge and will be passing on this one as well. At least the mindfuck stuff is cool, but I cant abide cheesy romance AND awful worldbuilding, combined.

  2. meh, I wasn’t that fascinated ny The Pledge.. but I don’t think ill be reading this one anytime soon. Thanks for your honest review!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  3. Becca says:

    Oh wow, I haven’t seen many reviews for this. I think because The Pledge came out so long ago, you know? And it was already a ho-hum book so by the time this one came out, I really lost interest. Now there’s no way I’m going to pick it up if there’s little to be desired by the sequel.

  4. Kat Balcombe says:

    Ah yeah this series has no appeal to me at all. But Sever? Man I can’t wait until next Sunday *grabs popcorn in preparation*. Anonymous person has a great sense of humour 😉

  5. Kayla Beck says:

    Your Sever comment made me giggle. I still haven’t read Fever because I enjoyed Fever. I know it’ll get bad…

  6. Jessie says:

    I wasn’t impressed by the first book, but some of the ideas in it were interesting. The whole Sabara/Charlie thing mostly. I was curious to see how it was handled, but your review has convinced me I do not need to read this to see it.

    And I know what the line you quoted for was trying to do but all it did was make me laugh. Oh, YA romances. So cliche, all the time.

    I’ve never read Wither/Sever, but I own the first. Maybe one day…

    • Christina says:

      The Charlie/Sabara dynamic is by far the best, and perhaps only good, thing about this series. It does some cool things, but not enough to make the rest of it worthwhile. The Essence was really slow and The Pledge had vomit-inducing romance.

      Actually, though, the reason I chose that quote is that it’s Brooklynn talking to Charlie, so it’s not romance, it’s friendship.


  7. Bookworm1858 says:

    Love your note about Sever-I didn’t think that’s something you’d want to read.

    Definitely agree about the random switch to the mole’s POV-I was kind of confused when that happened and utterly unprepared for it within the context of the story as presented up to that point.

    • Christina says:

      It’s not. X_X

      That was so out of place, and it didn’t add a thing to the story. Definitely wasn’t the dramatic moment it was intended to be.

  8. Soma Rostam says:

    Well, I love this Sadie Hawkins feature, it’s so unique and i have been hearing a lot about this book and its previous sequel. They sounds intriguing and I think this is the first almost-negative review of this book I have read
    GREAT review, though
    Your reader,

    • Christina says:

      Thanks! I’ve enjoyed it too, even if I’ve not loved some of the picks. Most of my friends haven’t much cared for this series, but maybe you’ll like it.

  9. Nori says:

    Of course, I loved this book…However, I totally understand what you are saying about the main character’s bad thinking. She does kind of luck into things, doesn’t she? Like she luckily remembers her few queen lessons, as you said. And luckilly, people like her. I do like this author’s other series better. But if the romance bothers you in this one…I wouldn’t go there. I guess I just super loved the concept. And I loved the two characters in one thing and getting to know the bad guy thing.

    • Christina says:

      Haha, oh Nori. We are not brain twins so far as fiction goes, it’s true. She lucks into everything. She would not survive for five minutes left to her own devices. She is the quintessential special snowflake. Sabara’s the only thing that makes her interesting.

  10. I like your Sadie Hawkins feature, but I dunno. I would dig in my heels before reading anything that was described as “after the luminous conclusion of…” 🙁

    Have you had any Sadie reads that you’ve loved so far? Thus far I’ve mostly seen Torture Christina books. It’s cruel and must be stopped!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Christina says:

      Bahahaha, oh, Wendy. Let me think about that. Most of them have been torture books so far. There are good ones on the list, but I think has it out for me.

      Actually, I just looked back through the ones I’ve done so far and most of them were good books, but the bad ones just stick with the memory. Haha. For example, Earth Girl was awesome and I read a Courtney Summers book, too. But, by all means, add some more good ones to the queue. 😉

  11. Kelly says:

    The interplay between Charlie and Sabara is fascinating, and it’s the sort of mindfuckery that I appreciate greatly.

    This bit alone makes me want to give The Essence a shot. Like you, I really disliked The Pledge, mostly due to the ridiculous worldbuilding and awful romance. Seeing that one has not improved, and the other has been mostly ignored makes me think that maybe I might like this one more.

    But I’m also not going to run out and buy a copy today. Maybe if I stumble across it on the discount shelf someday!

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