Essenced - Connie L. Smith

*Book source ~ Many thanks to the author for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review.


AJ is a typical 16-yr-old teenager stumbling through high school as best she can when one morning she reaches her hand out to slap off the alarm and smashes it and her night stand to rubble. Confused, she blames it on shoddy workmanship and adrenaline. But strange things keep happening and it’s getting harder to delude herself. When a hot mysterious stranger shows up and starts stalking her, trying to explain why she’s not the same anymore, she tells him to bug off. One night she can’t sleep and walks to the beach to clear her head. After he shows up yet again, she decides to listen to what he has to say then wishes she hadn’t. A war is brewing and she is needed to help fight it. At first she resists, but finally she agrees to join the army. Let the training begin.


I love fantasy/paranormal stories and don’t mind the same type of story told in hundreds of different ways, but this story takes an interesting new direction in telling about the fantasy/ paranormal world.  The writing is excellent and the characters are varied and interesting. Told in multiple POVs it really helps bring the world together. I had a love/hate relationship with AJ though. I loved her loyalty, her fierceness and her determination to protect, but her constant arguing got on my nerves. I honestly couldn’t see why Julius liked her so much. On the other hand, their constant bickering was, for the most part, entertaining and I made allowances for the fact that she’s a teenager even though he is not. And no, I’m not saying what he is.


The whole back story was fascinating. How magic used to be a part of the world, why it left and why it’s sort of back. My biggest problem with the story was how Nicholai picked teenagers for his soldiers. Unpredictable, inexperienced teenagers. His reasoning was sort of understandable, but not really. He didn’t want to include people who might have already started families and end up with them down one parent if they were killed in the war. Um, isn't that what our military faces every single day? With the entire world at stake and the imminent extinction of humanity fast approaching I would have chosen the best of the best for my army. Marines, Rangers, SEALs, etc., those who already have training and fighting experience. But I can see that might not be as good a story since the teenagers had to be whipped (not literally!) into shape. So I suspended my belief of what I would do and just went with the story. Trust me, it’s a great ride!