The Essence was officially released on January 1, 2013. I wasn’t immediately hooked by the fantasy/magic elements in The Essence. The first couple of chapters are Charlie adjusting to life as Queen. I found myself having trouble remembering who the side characters were and spent a lot of time in the first two chapters evaluating as Charlie goes to riding lessons and fighting lessons, etc. I was completely hooked with the re-emergence of the Sabara plot at the end of chapter 2. The story really takes off from there with mysteries, assassins, spies, kidnapping, betrayal, dancing, soul mates, new powers, and murder. Early on in the story, a character from book 1 was killed off. I wasn’t emotionally attached to the character .In The Essence there is a spy among Charlie’s inner circle who reports back to one of the other queens. I narrowed down the identity of the spy to two people, but I really thought it was the other person. After the surprising plot twist involving Brook in book 1, I thought the spy could have been either person. The spy’s identity wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but I was guessing most of the book. A sweet, heart-wrenching soul mate story is interwoven into this book. I am a sucker for a soul mate story, and I desperately hope the soul mate arc from this book will eventually have a happy ending. It’s one of the things not completely resolved in this book. I know I probably shouldn’t want them to get their happy ending, but I do. Maybe a redemption story. I would gladly sacrifice the queen who hired the assassin so the soul mates could be happy. (Also, I’m really curious the reasoning behind what happened to their baby(ies) in the soul mate arc. There has to be a major reason behind that. Obviously something bad would happen. Perhaps Charlie is a relative? Not sure. But I hope it all is explained in the next book.) Brook, Charlie’s best friend and commander of her army, had a number of segments from her point-of-view in this book. They were necessary to the plot, but I didn’t really feel the same passion and connection to her part of the story as Charlie’s and the soul mate side plot. Brook also has a love interest plot in this book, but I didn’t connect to it like I did the other two. That may have been because she was not the main point-of-view. Or perhaps part of it was because I suspected one of her love interests was the spy and didn’t want to feel too close to the spy who would cause trouble. Many second/middle books suffer from bad endings – the book being chopped into half for book 2 and 3. That’s not the case for The Essence. The main plot for the book ends and a lot of the side plots reach some form of resolution. The ending doesn’t have the same celebratory feel from the ending of book 1, but it wraps up well. All in all, I think the book was very well-done. I loved it, especially the soul mate side-plot.