The Pledge (The Pledge #1)
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.
Let's just say I was blown away with the voice and ended up ordering the book. There's so much to like about this story--unique twist, likeable characters, great voice, and even romance.
Charlie is very likeable and has a trait that she needs to hide or else she'll be executed. The premise of people not being able to speak certain languages kind of reminded me of my own grandfather being reprimanded for speaking Spanish in school before the second world war. In her acknowledgments she credits a woman who shared her childhood years in WWII Germany. The scenes were Charlie and her younger sister have to flee bombings and hide in a mineshaft are very haunting.
The twists and turns in this story kept me on my toes. Just when I thought I figured it out, another turn popped up.
Derting takes a familar premise and gives her own twist to it. The chemistry between Charlie and Max works. So does her relationships with her friends Brook and Aron. I did want to see more of the underground rebellion and more on the rebel leader Xander but I have a feeling the next book will show this.
The cliffhanger ending is totally awe worthy. I love how Derting sets us up for the second book.
A must read for dystopia fans. I know I can't wait for the next book!
2. Great voice, characters, and dialogue
3. Unique twists and turns
4. Great ending hook
This book was purely an impulse by; I was drawn in by the synopsis for this novel and just decided to buy it. There was something about the idea of a caste system that revolves around language that I found so intriguing. I was curious to see how such a society would run and how the different classes would interact if they all spoke different languages. I think that Kimberly Derting did a decent with world-building, however, I would have liked to have seen even more. The world itself is so hard to label because it has a blend of past, futuristic, dystopian, and fantasy elements. I thought that this blend made for a unique world that I hadn't seen before. I personally like this blend of elements, however, that being said, if you want a more believable dystopian read or a mystical fantasy than this book may not be for you.
Besides the world itself, I very much enjoyed the characters. Charlie, the main character, was a hit for me from the beginning, and I only grew to love her more as the time went on. This was mostly for the love she shows her family, particularly her sister, throughout the book. I also really enjoyed Max as a character. He was funny, kind, charming, and made for a great love interest. There was also NO love triangle which gives the author points in my book. The only character I didn't care for-- besides the villain obviously-- was Brooklynn, but even she managed to impress me as I got farther into the book.
While the book itself is a decent size at 352 pages, it definitely did not feel that long. The book is pretty well paced, minus a bit of world building in the beginning that dragged a bit for me, and makes the book feel like an easy read. It has an interesting plot with many twists and turns, some of which I guessed and others that blew me away.~~ cough cough, Brooklynn, cough cough~~ For those who hate cliffhangers there is a good ending, however, it is a trilogy so that is not the end of the story. I am kind of left wondering why it is a trilogy at all. I am excited to read them, but I am also worried that it will just drag out an already finished story.
I read this book back in 2012 and never got around to reading the sequel (mostly because it wasn't at the library). I now have the sequel available, so it was time for a reread. While I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first time, I did like this dystopian.
Charlie lives in a world where each class system speaks a different language and there are many rules and regulation involving class and even looking at someone while they are speaking their class language. The issue is that Charlie has developed an ability to understand every language, an ability she much keep hidden. Charlie ends up meeting a boy named Max, who has his own secrets. It is them that Charlie begins to wonder what secrets is everyone hiding--Max, the queen, her parents--and what does it all have to do with her.
What I find very interesting about this book was the unique world. Not only does this take place in a completely different world and a dystopian-esque society, but the take on the language was something that I have never seen before in a dystopian novel and loved the take on it. Sadly, this book did feel like most dystopian and fantasy novels in the way it was formatting, but I still enjoyed reading it and I did like it. There's nothing wrong with it really, I've just read so many YA books that I can detect the similarities.
I think my main issues lie with Charlie and how quickly things seemed to go, or how quickly she seemed to trust others. Especially Max. There was a very short interaction with Max in the club and then Charlie wouldn't stop thinking about him. I really thought that was really quick, as they hardly said anything at all to each other.
I know I'm saying more I disliked than liked, but I really did enjoy reading this book. For the most part, this book is your run-of-the-mill dystopian with fantasy elements thrown in and a very fascinating premise. Again, not that that's a bad thing. I really did like this book and I recommend this to fans of both dystopian and fantasy, as well as fans of Kimberly Derting. Also, I plan on continuing the series. In fact, I've already read The Essence!
1. The magic. There was a slight magical element that I was not expecting. The idea of a long-lost royal line that has been in hiding was intriguing. Add in that the daughters of the royal heirs have secret abilities, and the interest factor jumps. I would be crazy if I didn't mention the freaky Queen. She had some sick abilities that made my skin crawl!
2. The characters. Charlie was a pretty resourceful gal. I enjoyed her cleverness. Her friends, eh. Some of them did not have large enough roles, and others hard too much presence. Max was also a delight. He was mysterious and brooding. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Charlie in Max as the series progresses.
3. The story telling. The pages flew by as I read. This was an easy read, but it didn't come across as being an amateur read. It was fun. A perfect light, enjoyable read. It's one of those books that you can just get lost in.
Overall, I enjoyed The Pledge. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and a series I will continue to read.
The description of the book is kind of...off. Charlie doesn't really escape in the "drug-filled underground club scene." Number one, the only drugs down there are the stamps, or at least those are the only ones mentioned in the book. Number two, she only goes to the club twice. And out of those TWO times she only wanted to go there ONCE.
But, the book had a lot of cool features that you don't see as much anymore. Like for instance, girls rule, like literally, as in the country. Cool, right? Throughout history people have always wanted a male heir, and now, a new thought. I also really liked the idea of the ability to understand all languages. I mean, that's a pretty big part of communication, and I'm glad someone thought of that...especially the non-verbal part.
The end still leaves you hanging a little bit. In a way, this book could stand alone, but if the author wanted to, she could make a sequel out of it and answer some questions. All in all, a good book, and I would definitely read the sequel.
The world-building was virtually non-existent. Having been subjected to several history lessons from Charlie, it was easy to deduce that The Pledge is set in the far-off future, yet it was never really touched on whether society had regressed into a time without technological advances, or if it indeed did possess some futuristic technologies. Charlie does mention that people of her status can't afford the luxury of electricity or motorized vehicles, and the resistance does have access to some heavy artillery, but then Queen's army is armed with swords? And everyone is forced to wear a passport, which is scanned at various check-in points to verify the owner's citizenship (which I assume uses some type of computer-technology to cross-reference the information) and Charlie attends dance clubs and is drugged through a stamp to her hand, but those who have committed a transgression are subjected to a public hanging in the middle of Town Square. The mix of the new with the old was never fully explained, and it left me unable to visualize the world in which Charlie lives. I kept picturing everything happening in a medieval setting, only for something futuristic to interrupt my vision and leave me confused.
The characters lacked depth and personality. Charlie was a nice enough protagonist, in that she didn't annoy me, but she didn't stand out in any way. She mostly catered to the whims of her best friend Brooklyn, who I thought was terribly selfish, and spent the book having things happen to her, versus making things happen. Her insta-love interest, Max, showed up out of the blue and seemed to be "intrigued" by her for no good reason, and her attraction to him was based solely on his physical appearance; I felt no chemistry between them. I was secretly hoping for her long-time, super protective, best friend, Aron to show up as the third player in a love triangle, but other then carrying her bag to school, he didn't seem to serve much of a purpose. The evil queen was supposedly someone to be feared, but the constant references to her body's frailty had me unable to imagine her as anything but a cranky old woman. The other supporting characters were more of the same, in that I didn't dislike any of them, but none of them left a lasting impression on me - none of them stood out in any way and I'll be surprised if I remember any of their names tomorrow.
The pacing was decent, but the action was mild and the excitement was always short lived. The plot twists were surprisingly predictable (meaning that I kept thinking, there's no way Derting will make it this easy for me to guess what's going to happen next), and the plot moved in a fairly straight-forward manner. Charlie's interactions with the members of the resistance showed that she was neither for, nor against, their views (how surprising), and so her choice at the end completely blindsided me (and not in the good way; it was more in the lines of...did I miss something?) - when did she decide where she stood on things?. The ending tried to be dramatic, but fit into the predictability of the rest of the plot. It did leave a couple questions unanswered - why didn't Angelina speak? What good is Charlie's ability, and will she learn she has other powers? - both things which might be answered in the sequel, but frankly, I don't care enough to find out.
A society based on discrepancies in language is a very interesting idea, especially since, in some senses, this has been done in real cultures, such as how Russian royals used to speak in French. Intriguing, too, were the seemingly magical powers possessed by Charlie and the Queen of the realm. Why do only women have the capability to have such powers? I don't know, but, heck yeah, strong women! Actually, one of the few things I really liked about Charlie is that she spoke almost entirely in Englaise, because she didn't see the point of making things hard on people. Why not speak so everyone could understand?
While I liked the language differences, I had trouble accepting that people were incapable of ever learning a language they were not born with. This just isn't how language works so far as I know. Not being allowed to speak an upper crust language, I get, but being incapable of ever learning or speaking it?
Another thing I really didn't like was what transpired in one particular scene. Charlie and her best friend Brooklynn go to an illegal nightclub, despite being underage (woo, doubly illegal!). When let in, they receive hand stamps, much like clubs now have for those below the drinking age, only these are laced with drugs to loosen people up. Charlie feels some ill effects from hers, so she decides to wander around the building and finds a secret hallway. Discovered by a mysterious, vaguely creepy, secretive guy, she lets him put something else on her hand (supposedly to help, but what does she know?!?) and falls asleep trustingly. To be fair, nothing untoward occurred, but I just want to say that no one should ever do this. Charlie is a bad role model!
While the overarching plot had some interesting things going on, the romance running through it was just completely stereotypical YA and barftastic. The words describing any encounter between Charlie and Max are reminiscent of such works as Twilight, Personal Demons, or Hereafter. Here's a sample scene of the two of them, just after their first makeout session: "I was still shaking when I finally turned my head away, ending the kiss. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done. My lips felt swollen and raw, and achingly cold in the absence of his" (265). The hardest thing she ever had to do? Really? Come on.
At this juncture, I do not know if I will be trying the sequel; I may have to just to figure out why a sequel needs to exist, as this seems to have wrapped up the existing plot threads. For those of you who enjoy melodramatic teenage romances complete with instalove and some dystopian business, The Pledge will satisfy your every desire.
The dystopian world was riddled with terrors (hangings!) and a power struggle for the queendom. I particularly liked how the society was set as a queendom rather than the kingdom that we all know and usually see. The gender reversal was pretty refreshing and very interesting to read. Social classes are divided by languages, which I found very clever. The execution of this great world fell flat for me. I had a hard time understanding whether the society was a regressive one (no technology) or a futuristic one. At times the description said that the Vendor class is not allowed electric lights or motorized cars. But then the Royals, who use more technology, prefer wielding archaic weapons rather than guns? The confusion actually made it hard to picture the world. The term “marketplace” was thrown out a lot, so I pictured everything like a Camelot set with no paved roads. I’m not sure that’s how the book was intended to be read.
Then we have Charlie Hart, who I actually adored, especially her relationship with Angelina, her little sister. Charlie never grated on me. She was simply a good, strong character, which is one reason why I kept reading. Though, I wasn’t sure why she liked Max. It seemed like that attraction came from leftfield. For the most part I was drawn to Max, but I was very confused about his position in the Royal court. It never really got cleared up as to why he stayed under the power of the queen.
The whole book is based off the resistance versus the current queen’s rule. I had a hard time trusting the resistance. I’m not sure that was the correct way to look at it either. But I was rooting for the evil queen, which was slightly disturbing on my part. Not until a little twist came out about the queen did I take a step back. Overall, I didn’t know which side I was supposed to like because neither had a true appeal. In a dystopian society, that reaction is probably pretty realistic. Overall, it was an engaging book and could be sped through once you get into it. I give it 3 stars and would suggest it for those who really, really love dystopian novels like The Handmaid’s Tale with dark, troubling societies.
But I'll start with what I didn't like, since there's not much of it.
From reading the blurb, you know that Charlie can understand every language and that she's not supposed to. But in the book, it takes forever to actually explain that. I don't care if we technically already know it, I like elaborations, dang it! And the world of Ludania, how the Queen ruled, Ludania's past, I felt like it was revealed too late in the book. I spent all this unnecessary time wondering what the heck was going on.
In the beginning, I didn't really like the writing style. Lots of the sentences were too long and felt awkward, but it wasn't very long before I didn't think about it. I'm not sure if it's because the sentences got less awkward or because I didn't notice it anymore, but either way, I started to really like the writing.
AND NOW ONTO THE GOOD STUFF.
I don't know how Derting did it, but she made me totally understand Brooklyn. At first, I hated her. And when Charlie started to suspect that Brook was just using her for selfish purposes, (which I totally agreed with) I couldn't believe Charlie wasn't even angry about it. But then I found out about the real Brooklyn, and I was like WHOA. I GET IT. SHE'S NOT REALLY THAT MUCH OF A BITCH. I have to applaud Derting on that, considering I utterly hated Brooklyn for the first half of the book.
Although there were times when I didn't really understand it, I loved the romance. There was no insta-love, and after the first night she met him, Charlie wasn't constantly and obsessively thinking about Max. He crept into her thoughts sometimes, but not all the time. It seemed very realistic to me. And there were things she liked and disliked about Max. He wasn't perfect, and Charlie knew that, and that just made it so realistic for me.
I also really liked Charlie as a character. She had her faults. When her city was being attacked, sure, she was worrying about her sister, but she also afraid for herself, which made her seem much more real and relateable. She was caring and strong, but she had her moments where she questioned everything. She was an awesome narrator/main character.
But by far, my favorite thing about this was the originality. Sure, the whole "rebelling against the leader" thing has been done plenty of times before, but Derting made it an idea all her own. I loved the world of Ludania, I loved how everything worked, and I loved how modern things were still incorporated into it, like restaurants and clubs.
Overall: The Pledge surprised me and then continued to surprise me. Full of originality and twists and turns, I really loved this. The characters were real, the romance were real, but the plot was definitely not something you see every day. 4.5 stars.
Derting is a master of characters, I was suspicious yet charmed by Max, fiercely wanting to protect Angelina, and not only that, she is great at giving only the information you need in that moment, and not a smidge more to keep me asking questions, being surprised, and needing to know more.
The world building and the pacing was great, and this makes me think that I have really missed something by not reading The Body Finder.
There were so many things that I wasn't expecting that effected the storyline and it's a pleasant surprised to be completely blindsided by things like that when I can sometimes sniff a dystopia "twist" a mile away.
If you like fantasy or dystopias, then I recommend to give The Pledge a chance, you might fall in love like I did.