Review of Essence by Hayley Gabrielle

When Abbey Shader is summoned to Ethra, a land where human qualities roam free in flesh known as Essences, her life and the universe as she knows it splits open before her.
With the expansive secrets of humanity at her fingertips, Abbey’s strength of will and heart are put to a test no amount of time or meticulous study could have prepared her for.
Left to decide between the comfort of the familiar and the potential enlightenment of the strange, Abbey is thrust into a journey that demands more of her at every turn. She must learn to trust what she sees, and trust what she can’t.

Hayley Gabrielle approached me on Instagram and asked if I would like to review her novel, I loved what I read in the blurb, so I immediately agreed!  Having finished today I think the overwhelming feeling I get from this book was that I felt like I was watching The Wizard of Oz, but that’s a good thing. We start with Abbey as a sarcasm filled, directionless teen trying to channel her energies into a future career path, she has a tight knit friendship group and an exasperated mother.  When she returns home one day to find a strange and beautiful brooch in her room she finds herself transported to the world of Ethra where she discovers she was in fact summoned to become the new Melder of the world by the Great and Powerful Oz Overseer, and must embark upon a journey to meet with him to find out what it’s all about.

Throughout Abbey’s journey, new friends are discovered along the way in the form of essences made human, these essences really made me think to Dorothy’s companions along the yellow brick road, although Abbey’s journey is fraught with far more dangers!  The essences are pretty great characters, I loved Harlie as Honesty, but Gwin was like having Pinky Pie (MLP) bouncing around at every opportunity with her boundless optimism.  I enjoyed how they all balanced each other out and with a good dose of snark from Abbey now and then, it made for a humorous reading experience at times.  Ethra is clearly a world that has had it’s suffering and it’s tough for Abbey to know what to do, can she trust her visions of what’s happening back home and if so, does it really compare to what she is learning about her potential role there? It’s not all fun and games though, whilst there are essences of good around her, Abbey also has to accept that there are essences of evil and as one of those is a bit of a plot twist, I’m going to leave it there!

Essence is an early-mid teen read, the violence is infrequent, but it is there and the romance is on point.  It’s a very readable story and it doesn’t drag in the way that high fantasy sometimes can, however, I didn’t feel it was a book I couldn’t put down.  It was an easy book to return to though because we are still very much in the opening stages of what appears to be a series and in the getting to know you phase, before the big story arc kicks in.  I think that this was where the book fell a little short for me, there were no big set pieces and the story felt very character driven (I’m more of an epic world building kind of girl), I just wanted more from the pages by the end. Abbey is very trusting and I was surprised at how easily she was deviated from her original path, although it would have made for a much shorter and less fun story if she hadn’t. I felt the ending was a little abrupt, not quite a cliffhanger but not really a resolution either – I was surprised there wasn’t another chapter or epilogue to tie it up neatly for what comes next.

All Wizard of Oz joking aside though, Essence was a great, light read and pretty unique in terms of what I have been reading in fantasy of late. I’m glad that the author reached out to me as ultimately I did very much enjoy it and the great characters.


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