Release Date: November 15th, 2011
by Margaret K. McElderry Books
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.
In Kimberly Derting’s The pledge, we embark on a fairy-tale like story set in a dystopian future where language dictates your class standing. I was first attracted to this book by it’s intriguing premise and original setting. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to connect to the characters nor was I very invested in the story.
As a reader, I’m very character oriented. I feel the need to be able to relate to the characters. Feel their emotions, understand their decisions and connect with their personalities. I didn’t feel any of this with Charlie, the protagonist in The Pledge. I felt very detached from her. She didn’t have any distinct traits or strengths. I also never felt the connection between her and Max – the love interest. It was never clear why Max was so infatuated with her. She simply “intrigued him”, whatever that means. The one part I did enjoy was Charlie’s relationship with her sister. She was deeply devoted to saving her sister and making sure she was ok. I was also happy about the presence of the parents in the book.
Charlie has a big secret, she can understand all languages. In this world, if you even look at a person while they are speaking a language of a higher class, that is punishable by death. I did find this to be a bit harsh, but not necessarily unrealistic. If we take the present, there are already a lot of problematic prejudices caused by language, so I could see, in a dystopian future, that it could come to this. The part about the world building I had a problem with was that I couldn’t fathom how society would put a full worldwide matriarchy in place of a democracy. It wasn’t very well explained, how it came about. World building is especially important in a dystopic setting, and The Pledge did not have me convinced.
I was never surprised by the events that occurred during the story. It was as expected and went in a fairly straight route. The pacing was pretty decent, but the action was mild and the excitement was short lived. I never felt especially alarmed during the book, neither did I feel intimidated by the Queen. It was over fairly quickly without much aftershock, and we barely got any details regarding the magic. Why was Angelina not speaking? What’s the point of Charlie’s abilities? She never really took advantage of them which was pretty disappointing. I guess a sequel may cover it, but it feels strongly like a stand-alone novel. I’m not sure if a sequel is planned, but I can’t see where the plot would go from here.
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