The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Expected publication: 11.15.2011 (Margaret K McElderberry)
Series: The Pledge (1)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab e-book
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.
Following a prologue that nicely sets up Kimberly Derting's first dystopian fantasy, we meet Charlaina "Charlie" Hart, citizen of Ludania. Charlie is a loyal friend, a narrator who I felt a certain sort of kinship with, someone who cares deeply for her family and for her friends...someone who has a secret. In the world Derting has crafted, which hints but never openly does more than pretend to be a reformed America with a revamped caste system, it's a crime one can be severely punished for to understand or speak a language your class should not know. And Charlie can understand any language, spoken, or written.
Charlie's world expands, becoming mysterious and undefinable when she meets Max one night at a club, illegal dens of inquity that are usually only in the same place for a night or two, calling to mind the speakeasies of the 1920's. Max seems as drawn to Charlie as she tries to convince him she isn't, but she doesn't trust him entirely, winning her points in my favor. There was no insta-romance here, no love-at-first-sight. There was, however, a slow burning attraction that, although it was clear both characters felt, neither truly gave into right away.
There is also plenty of intrigue. Not only is Charlie's ability to interpret various languages brought into question, but Kimberly Derting also spun several twists into the fabric of The Pledge. Some, I saw coming, while a few others caught me pleasantly by surprise. One, I have to say, pretty much took my breath away, which in this case, was a very good thing. Plus, Kimberly has a way of really making you care about her characters. I found myself inexplicably attached to a few - Aron in particular - and very anxious to see further character growth and development in the coming sequels.
I do have a few issues with the book though. One - while I really enjoyed the switching points of views, the chapters felt incredibly short, and I would have loved, really loved, to have seen more from Xander and Max's points of view. I also feel like the ending was wrapped up a little too neatly for me. The pacing, for me, was okay, up until the end, where I feel like things could have slowed down, instead of sped up to warp-speed. And in the sequel, I'm hoping for a little more world-building, or rather, backstory on Ludania's true origins.
This could easily have been a stand-alone, but the fact that it's a trilogy leaves me really hoping Kimberly Derting will be able to build on what groundwork she has laid in The Pledge.
This book was sent to me via Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any kind changed hands. I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.
I wondered if he would say such things if he knew how badly my hands shook, if he knew that my skin felt brittle, like ice, as if it would shatter should I move too suddenly. Or if I dared to breathe. - Charlie