Title: The Pledge
Author: Kimberly Derting
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: The Pledge Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 323 Pages
ISBN-10: 1442422017 (Simon & Schuster)
ISBN-13: 978-1442422018 (Simon & Schuster)
Reviewed by: Emmy
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.
Quick & Dirty: This book bites off more than it can chew, making for a shallow read populated with a lot of stock characters.
Opening Sentence: The air crackled like a gathering thunderstorm the moment the girl entered the chamber.
The Pledge combines a future where America has fallen and reformed to be Ludania, a country ruled by caste systems and magical queens. The current queen, called Sabara, isn’t really Sabara but her mother. In fact, every queen Ludania’s ever had has been the same soul that simply steals the bodies of her daughters. In Derting’s world a revolution has already happened once, managing to install a President before Ludania realized they weren’t as self-sufficient as they thought. The other countries will only ally with a government ruled by a queen, which is how Queen Sabara became welcomed into power in the first place. Now the queen needs a female heir, having had sons who only had more sons. Only a queen can rule, and that’s the only body she can jump into.
But revolution is brewing again across the country, with attacks both on the countryside and the Capital. Charlie’s learned to keep her head down and her mouth shut, both because the punishment for breaking the law is death and because no one can know she understands. Charlie understands every language, every dialect, without ever trying to learn them. And in a world where classes are isolated by the languages they’re legally allowed to know, her power could get her killed. By the queen’s command everything from stealing to meeting the eyes of someone speaking a language above yours is punishable by hanging. So Charlie doesn’t trust anyone, not even her two best friends Brooklynn and Aron.
Brooklynn is the ditzy, boy-crazy best friend who’s father really doesn’t care where she is or what she’s doing. While there was a lot of potential in Brooklynn, especially as the plot gets drawn deeper and deeper into the subterfuge of the revolution, she’s a stock character to the core and used mainly as a plot device. Aron is the same way, the over-protective best friend who tries to take care of them. The characters that did feel fleshed out, besides Charlie, was her sister Angelina and the mysterious Max from the club Prey.
It’s a good thing Max is a well developed hero, because the romance between them is the primary plot. Everything else, the revolution, the magic powers she has, comes in second. In fact, the plot of the novel isn’t really brought into the story until you’re halfway through, letting the backstory and characters attempt to carry the first half of the novel.
I think part of the reason I couldn’t get into this story was that there were too many things going on. It’s trying to be a dystopian fallen-America as well as a paranormal romance but neither aspect is well fleshed out. The POV jumps between Charlie, who’s the main narrator, to Max, the queen and Xander. Mostly to add tension and move the plot along, but there’s no rhyme or reason for it. When the POV changes it’s pretty much a giveaway something’s going to happen, because even though Charlie’s the main character nothing really happens to her. Mostly it’s the other characters who do something which then affects Charlie, rather than our heroine doing anything for herself. And that’s one of my biggest character peeves.
Anyway, The Pledge had high ambitions but couldn’t quite live up to them. There were things I liked, Max and the revolutionaries comes to mind, but mostly the story wasn’t strong enough to carry its own.
The skin at the nape of my neck tightened, my head clearing instantly as the drug that had been bleeding through my system evaporated in a blink. In fact, all of my senses were heightened as my eyes remained fastened on his.
“I wasn’t sure you’d be here tonight.” His voice was low–almost hushed–despite the loud music pounding around us.
“Yeah, me either. I wasn’t sure I’d be anywhere tonight.” I shot back.
He raised one brow uncertainly. “Is this a bad time? If you’d rather be alone, I’ll go.”
I could feel the restless crowd around us. If I’d really wanted to be alone, Prey would be the last place I’d be. But I suddenly felt trapped by his cool, flint-colored eyes. They were disquieting in a way I didn’t understand. My breath lodged in my throat, and I had the strangest feeling that I should look away from him. Yet I was captivated.
“It’s–it’s okay,” I finally managed, and that tangled knotted deeper, taut threads of hesitant emotions. The feeling that he was to be avoided deepened.
He frowned, but his lips quirked. “Good, because it was an empty offer. I had every intention of staying.”
The Pledge Trilogy:
1. The Pledge
2. The Essence
FTC Advisory: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of The Pledge. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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