In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.
Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.Hardcover, 323 pagesPublished November 15th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry
Three Stars The Pledge is a fresh introduction to Kimberly Derting's new, dystopian series.
A cheer squeals from the mob squeezed around the main square of Ludania. A wave of bodies clawing and pushing to peer at the imminent execution. In Ludania, Queen Sabara rules the land with an indomitable, iron fist. The slightest infraction, such as failure to divert your eyes when addressed by someone of a higher class, will earn you a one way trip to the gallows. It is a land organized into a caste system with deep divisions. Each class has their own language, while Englaise is the universal mode of communication. It is strictly prohibited to learn a language outside your social status. This separation of the population allows the Queen to divide and control the rabble. The communicative barrier is meant to inhibit rebellious uprisings. Yet, in spite of her stringent domination, there is a revolt in the land. Each day the rebel force draws closer to the capital. On her lofty throne the aging Monarch Sabara is trapped in a decaying, frail body. Hungrily, she seeks an heiress; since she is cursed with a line of male progeny, who are of no use in this matriarchal society. Meanwhile, in the streets inhabited by the working class, seventeen year old Charlaina shudders and hurries away from the roar of the masses. Clutching her passport she maneuvers through the clogged roads. Ducking and averting her eyes, trying to hide the secret that could kill her. Charlaina, was inexplicably born with the ability to translate and understand any language. Then a chance encounter with a handsome stranger threatens a revelation of her talent. Suddenly, she finds herself thrust into a fight to save her family. Caught between two mysterious men. Whom can she trust?
What I Liked:
- I was intrigued by the dystopian society presented in The Pledge. The distinction of the people through language was a clever concept. I also appreciated the atmospheric tension and the way it builds throughout the book. The suspense crescendos at a nice, steady pace. This isn't a heart pounding, edge of your seat thriller but it does provide plenty of anxious moments. This book also has just a hint of fantasy that is cohesively slipped into the story.
- I liked the use of the dominating, evil monarch. The Queen is twisted, cruel and manipulative. For me, Queen Sabara is reminiscent of Queen Marie Antoinette, who ruled over France during the time of the French Revolution; she sent thousands of people to an untimely end courtesy of Madame Guillotine. Sabara comparatively has the same penchant for hastily ordering death sentences. I personally enjoy reading dystopian novels that allow me to draw parallels between our world and the one presented in the book.
- I loved the way the characters were unmasked. All the major players, Charlaina, Brooklynn, Max, Xander, Charlaina's parents and Angelina all have secrets and the reveals are so much fun. I was definitely caught by surprise with some of the discoveries. Be prepared for exciting twists and turns!
- The romance in this book starts as a little spark, an unexplainable attraction. The little glint flickers as Charlaina grapples with her shaky, butterfly feelings. Further interactions between Max and Charlaina strengthen the little light as they get to know and understand each other. The progression of affection moves slow and steady allowing the little flame to flare and glow. A sweet, easy romance, just right.
- I was relieved that Ms. Derting furnished her societal development with history and background details. Imparting some of the events that lead up to the timeline of the story gave me a richer experience while reading since I had a clear understanding of the environment. One of my peeves when reading dystopian is lack of information in world building. This book does an excellent job in crafting and creating the land of Ludania.
And The Not So Much:
- As I mentioned I appreciated the gradual pace but there were a couple of hitches. First, I had a bit of a problem absorbing into the story in the beginning but once the plot grabbed me I enjoyed the ride. I thought the final events of the book unfolded too rapidly especially in contrast to the rest of the book. I came away feeling that the ending was rushed.
- While I loved the gentle flowering of the romance, I hated the way the epilogue swiftly propels it onto another level. I would have liked to witness the romantic progression.
- I did not like the Epilogue. While I enjoyed the neat resolution of the story, no big cliffhanger ending (yeah!), the snippet at the end skipped well into the future. I think the book would be better without the epilogue.
The Pledge is a good introduction to a new series by Kimberly Derting. This book provides a nice framework for future novels. If you are a fan of dystopian novels this is a enjoyable entry in the field. While it may lack the gripping scenes of terror it does produce a distressed and fearful climate splashed with a bit of fantasy. Ms. Derting has a pleasant, fluid writing style that draws you into her world. Fans of her Body Finder series will enjoy her entrance into the dystopian genre. If you are an avid reader of dystopian novels this book provides the thrill you crave. I am interested to see where she will take the series.
"I loved voices, I always had. Words held meaning, but voices held emotion."
"The voice that interrupted my thoughts was like delicate silk to my ears and coarse sandpaper to my nerves."
"My resolve slipped, and then crumbled. I took harbor within his arms."
"He leaned in then and kissed me again, sweet and soft and tender, silencing my arguments and stealing my breath, making me wonder how one simple gesture could be so tragically lovely."