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The Essence - Kimberly Derting In the sequel to The Pledge, we find the newly queened Charlie still struggling with the soul of her predecessor. She can't shake her, dreaming of the old queen's past life. And this is just the smallest of her problems, it seems at first.Citizens are rising against her rule and the changes she is so determined to make. The Queens of all other nations expect her at a summit where she will no nothing of politic and protocol, she is expected to learn things she has no desire to and quell things she has every desire to keep. Her life is not what it was and she must forge a new one for herself with or without the Essence buried inside her.All the aspects that I loved in The Pledge return full force in The Essence. The world is wonderfully fantastical and as the story moved outside of Ludania it became more so. There is a glamor to this part of the story where The Pledge was grittier. I loved the drama of it.There is the introduction of a handful of new characters, many I adored and hope to learn more of in round three. It is so hard to know who can be trusted in this epic tale of murder and betrayal that I constantly found myself debating every word spoken by some of these newcomers.It's one of these newcomers that will bring the presence of the old queen to the forefront of Charlie's problems. What he and Sabara will kindle inside of Charlie is a power and longing that will change everything in her world including her carefully protected and most needed relationships.The twists and turns and action of The Essence I found more enjoyable than in the Pledge, which seemed to move at a slower pace. However, one of the things I adored in the first book was hardly present in this one. Max. Max has a much smaller role and I missed him. But I am a bit of a sap for a good love story. Don't misunderstand, there is still a love story. Two rather, but it isn't Max and Charlies that takes the center stage here. Though I found each of them endearing in their own right, I craved more of what had already developed.For that I say, "kudos, Ms. Derting". For I will anxiously be counting the days for more of these characters!