Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Released: November 15th 2011
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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. (from Goodreads)
The Pledge was definitely a great start to a new series! However, while I did really enjoy reading it, I also felt like there was something missing, which is why I can’t give it more than four stars. On one hand, I loved the world that Kimberly Derting had created; Ludania was such an interesting place, and I liked reading about the way language was used to represent class and social status – it was very different to anything else I’d read, and I was definitely intrigued by this society that relied so heavily on these class barriers. On the other hand, there was something lacking, and I think this was mostly down to the characters. While I really liked Charlaina, Max and everyone else, I just felt there wasn’t much connecting them together. The relationship between Charlaina and Max suffered from this the most; I really didn’t understand what attracted them to each other and the romance just seemed a bit off and a little unrealistic to me. I guess I just felt distanced from everyone a bit – which can be effective in some ways, but for me, it gave the feeling that there was something absent from the book. That being said, that’s pretty much the only problem I had with the book, except a few minor things here and there.
The thing that interested me most about The Pledge was the society Charlie lived in. I study both Politics and History at school, so I know a few of the basics about stuff like monarchy and democracy etc. etc. That’s why I was so taken in by Ludania. It was a strange place – a place with a monarchy, where only female heirs could take the throne. Male heirs were shunned and mistreated while the females were treated with great respect and reverence. It was like a complete reversal of any form of monarchy we’ve seen over the centuries, and the inclusion of a class system, where people were divided by language (those who spoke or even listened to a language above their own social status without lowering their head and gaze to the floor could be executed) gave the society a very old-fashioned feel despite the fact the book was set in a futuristic universe. There was also a kind of, well, magical is the only word I can think to describe it, aspect to the book involving the previous heirs of the throne, and it was all fascinating stuff! I loved reading the chapters from the Queen’s point of view - it was interesting to see everything that was going on in her head.
Charlaina was a very likeable, strong-minded protagonist, and I did form a connection with her quite easily. She was hiding a special ability from the world – the fact she could understand all languages, even ones she had never been taught - because it was an ability that could get her killed in a society where most people considered social status the most important thing. I think Charlie dealt with her situation quite well; I know that if I were in the same position as her and had the same ability, I would find it very difficult to keep my head down and ignore my surroundings and what was happening around me. I also really liked how Charlie valued her family – she would do anything to protect her little sister, and she was smart enough to realise the repercussions her actions would have on everyone she cared about. My only problem with her was that I felt she became a bit too “amazing” towards the end – everyone was after her, everyone was trying to protect her and she was treated like some priceless gem that everybody wanted a piece of. It was a bit too much at times, though I think I’m the only one who had this problem, because from the other reviews I’ve seen, no-one else has mentioned it :P.
Max, the love interest, was another character I liked. We actually got a few sporadic chapters from his POV, which I really enjoyed because we got to see a side of him that Charlie didn’t. He was mysterious, funny, good-looking, and generally had that vibe that makes you go “I don’t know who you are or what you want, but I’m not too fussed if you follow me around because you’re pretty and funny and I liiiike you” (or at least, that’s what I would be thinking if I met Max the way Charlie did). Despite this, however, I didn’t really get why he liked Charlie so much. I mean, I understand what he was supposed to do and everything, but I didn’t know why he felt so strongly about her after they barely spent any time together. It seemed a little unbelievable that he would throw away everything for her, when he had only known her a few weeks! Especially since the original reason he took any interest in her in the first place was all a bit sketchy. Though to be fair, I do understand why he would want to protect Charlie. I just feel the romantic part of their relationship was underdeveloped.
The other characters were generally likeable – Brooklyn, Charlie’s best friend – was a little annoying at first, but she was quite fun and good to read about, especially in the second half when we found out more about her. Xander was definitely an interesting guy and I hope to find out more about him in future books! Possible the most intriguing character though was Charlie’s sister, Angelina. Angelina didn’t speak, and had a special ability of her own. I have a feeling she’s going to become much more important in the sequel.
Overall, The Pledge was an enjoyable read, with a few great plot twists and a unique setting. Though I did have some issues with it, I would still recommend it, especially to fans of dystopian – it’s definitely worth reading!