"That the measure of a true queen didn't lie in her magic. It had more to do with who she was, and what she was willing to give of herself, than it did with the powers she possessed."The Offering is the final installment in The Pledge series about an ancient evil queen who has achieved immortality through her ability to move from body to body. That queen, Sabara, had her attempt partly thwarted when she was forced to transfer herself to Charlaina, who apparently is able to resist the ancient queen's ability to destroy her own existence. The two queens now co-exist within Charlaina's body.
The novel opens with a prologue that tells readers what has happened to Niko and Xander's peace mission to Astonia's Queen Elena. Xander is a prisoner of the Queen as a result of the betrayal by Niko who appears to be in league with Astonia's Queen Elena.
Back in Ludania, Queen Charlaina continues with her reforms and reunification of the country. The work camps have been abolished, those sentenced to the Scablands reintegrated, and communication re-established across the country between Charletown and the southernmost city, 11South.
For Charlie, the struggle between her and Sabara is ongoing, as they are "two queens trapped in the same body".For now Charlie is winning the battle with Sabara relegated to the back of her mind.
One day four messengers from Astonia arrive bearing a paper box containing a gruesome gift hidden amongst layers of purple flowers. Both Zafir and Eden are distraught over the loss of their brother and leader respectively. Eden strikes out at the messengers, killing one before she is prevented from further action by Zafir and hauled off to be ministered to by Charlie's younger sister, Angelina.
Charlie returns to the hall pondering Queen Elena's motivation for sending her such a gruesome package. Upon closer inspection of the box, Charlie finds a letter from Queen Elena in the false bottom making her an offer she can't refuse. That offer is eventually revealed after Charlaina heads to Astonia with Eden as her bodyguard and accompanied by Brooklyn, head of the army. Charlaina hopes that Elena has a means to banish Sabara's Essence forever, to cure her of the evil ancient queen's insidious presence. But destroying Sabara will prove more difficult than Charlie ever imagined, as the threat to herself and Ludania grows more terrible by the minute.
Derting has crafted a good, if not predictable, ending to The Pledge series that delivers what most readers will want, hope and a happy ending. This third novel has multiple narrators offering perspectives from most of the important characters including Charlie, Max, Niko, Aron, Brooklyn and Queen Elena's sister, Sage. Charlie's perspective is in first person, while the other characters narratives are done in third person. Despite this switch in perspective, they are easy to follow, each advances the storyline and is seamlessly connected to the preceding narrative.
There are a few unanticipated plot twists in The Offering that will catch the reader by surprise, helping to hold interest, especially in the prologue and the first part of the novel. Although the middle section which describes Charlie's journey across Ludania towards Astonia is slow, it is important because the reader is given a glimpse into the tenuous existence of the abandoned children in the camps outside the cities. These experiences make Charlaina realize how her country has regressed during the lengthy reign of Sabara, reinforcing Charlie's determination to ensure that Sabara never regains the throne.
Charlie is a strong female character demonstrating integrity and sacrificial love for her country - something neither Elena nor Sabara exhibit. These qualities inspire loyalty from those around her, even unto death.
Overall, this is a fitting conclusion to an interesting, well written trilogy. You can read about Kimberly Derting's next novel, The Taking on her website.
The Offering by Kimberly Derting
Toronto: Margaret K. McElderry Books 2014