In the conclusion of the Pledge trilogy, Charlaina, usually called Charlie, has become queen of Ludania, but she can’t escape the essence of the evil Sabara, which still lurks within her.
Although she’s determined to avoid a war with Queen Elena of Astonia, Charlie can’t resist Elena’s secret offer to rid her of Sabara’s essence. She teams up with elite guard Eden and best friend Brooklynn to sneak out of the Capitol and trek to Astonia in disguise. She also hopes to rescue Xander, Eden’s heartthrob and Max’s brother, whom Elena captured and whose severed hand she sent to Charlie. Charlie also carries on her romance with Max, delivered with all the conventions of the genre, including sentence fragments and pages-long clinchés. The plot’s suspense plays itself out effectively against the story’s mix of medieval and modern elements. Charlie’s characterization is not so successful, particularly when contrasted against such nifty secondary figures as Caspar, the sly young leader of a group of rogue children. Charlie herself suffers from nearly constant insecurity punctuated by momentary episodes of badass strength. These occur so seldom that the weakness wins, making Charlie seem more victim than heroine and prompting the author to resort to deus ex machina in the climactic scene.
Entertaining, but not up to Derting’s usual standards. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)