Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Synopsis: 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.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
There have been a lot of mixed reviews about Kimberly Dertling’s The Pledge, but regardless, there was a lot of talk about it. I decided to pick it up and see for myself.
You guys know that I have this thing for covers. The Pledge‘s cover intrigued me even before I read the synopsis. Here is a girl who is hidden underneath a cloaked hood. Why? You see, it gets me thinking about the book’s title, and for me, I get excited.
Dertling’s The Pledge begins similar to a lot of fairy tales; an unknown power that rules the monarchy in a kingdom that is ruled by women. The epilogue describes the shift of power from one queen to another, offering a glimpse of the magic that this book promises. Just from the epilogue alone, I was hooked.
The Pledge sets place in the kingdom of Ludania, in a time of knights, nobles, elites and the vendors. Ludania and all of its inhabitants is ruled by a single Queen. But unlike other fairy tales, Queen Sabara is cruel and is rumored to have ancient powers. The queen’s subjects are divided by classes, who have their own languages and strict rules. In this world where only women are allowed to rule the kingdom, the Queen ages without a female heir to take the throne. War knocks on the borders of Ludania and the Queen is desperate for her powers to be transferred to another ruling female.
Charlaina is the daughter of a vendor. Charlie, as she is known through her friends, lives a life of second best. She constantly lives her life in the shadows, because of her secret. In this world of strict rules and laws, Charlie understands everyone. In this world where there is a separate language for each social class, Charlie understands it all. But how could she if she’s never heard it before? She constantly struggles, ignoring her conscience in this unfair life of poverty. Even a simple reaction could reveal her secret, and could lead to her death. But Charlie wants more. Despite the challenges that Charlie is faced with, she is strong. Maybe even a bit too strong. Her constant battles with her conscience never end well, and an incident at her parents’ restaurant has gained the attention of a royal knight, Max.
Max. There is something mysterious about him that instantly grabbed me. For most of the book, I couldn’t completely trust him. Was he good? Did he have ulterior motives? Was he a spy for the Queen? What was his deal? While Max seemed like the tall, dark, and dreamy protagonist that I wanted to see, I didn’t emotionally connect to him. I wanted more from him. I loved him, but I am afraid it was superficial love. From first glance, Max seemed complex, but in The Pledge, I didn’t get to know him as much as I would have liked to.
The Pledge was a quick story, and I felt that the book’s pacing was fast. So much happened each day, that my mind and imagination constantly raced to be caught up. The story grabbed me. I finished this book in one evening with imagery running through my dreams. I was a little disappointed in the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the world that Dertling built. I was fascinated with the culture and history of the people and of each social class. I mean what story has a language for each class system? There were so many dimensions that I could see, but I didn’t understand why. And how did the Queen’s rule begin? Why is it only women that are allowed to rule? Have I missed something? Will this be in the second book? I understand that a first book of a series has a lot of expectations to grab a reader. I also understand that the amount of information in the first book is also weeded through. Keep or not keep?
I seek knowledge and I am anxiously waiting for the second book to find out.