Release Date: November 15, 2011
(Thanks to S&S Galley Grab!)
Published by: Simon & Schuster
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Words are the most dangerous weapon of all.
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.
1. (+) Charlie, the Protagonist - Right off the bat, Charlie gets my sympathy. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to conceal her power all the time-- at the threat of death! -- even when the upper class bullies at school are such bitches. And then there's the fact that she's so loving and loyal with her family and friends, working after school to help her parents manage their restaurant. More so than that, she's practical and smart. I can't think of a single time I felt frustrated with her.
2. (+) World-building - There is so much to love about this story world. Ludania's history and the oppressive society and the gender divide in the Royal family and the pending war with the rebellion and the languages and the difference in voices, pitches and the clubs and the class system. Admittedly I haven't been able to get into some dystopians just because I can't picture that sort of society ever existing, but that is definitely not the case here. I mean, with the harsh rules about the class system -- take a look at the caste systems and Victorian England and whatnot. Maybe the Queen's power and Essence part can't possibly exist but a society functioning on all this? Yes, I believe so. And I savored every last detail Derting had to offer. Fantastic world-building.
3. (+) Side Characters - Oh my goodness. I loved the relationships Charlie has with everybody -- Aron, Brooklyn, Angelina, her parents (her dad's devotion--so heartbreaking!), even Sydney. I was a little weary of Xander though; I don't want to spoil anything for you guys, but I just thought that his past seemed at odds with his behavior towards Charlie. But that by no means detracts from the rest of the relationships. Friendships and her family dynamics were wonderfully complex and laced with secrets I was dying to know. Seriously loved all of these characters and am glad only necessary characters were introduced.
4. (+) Romance - My initial reaction: too intense too quickly. And too many mentions of his eyes and their greyness and beauty and staring into them and whatnot (reminds me too much of paranormal insta-love!). And why exactly does Max find her intriguing if not for her powers as he claims? I looked back at their original conversation and couldn't really figure that out.... But the romance grew on me because it was sweet and builds throughout the novel (on the side) and Charlie's reactions were wonderfully appropriate; she didn't know whether or not to trust him so she didn't court the danger--she walked away. Yes! Thank you for a strong, logical female response, despite the fact that this is the first boy she takes interest in. Also, neither character claims to be in love by the end. They're strongly attracted to each other... Still, what really clinches the deal with Max for me is this note he writes to Charlie--it's so sweet and romantic and fitting for this novel & its theme.
5. (+) Alternating Perspectives - As in The Body Finder, we get multiple perspectives--Charlie's first person POV and third person POV accounts from the Queen, Max, and Xander. Personally would've loved to see more of the villain's perspective--thought that one was the most intriguing of them--and I wanted to know more about the villain. But in general I loved the alternating perspectives because they were a great suspense builder and kept me hooked to my computer.
6. (+) Not What I Expected - I sort of predicted what the ending was going to be after the 2nd? chapter, but that didn't stop me from reading... and didn't stop me from being surprised by all the intricacies. Nothing is what it seems--each character has something mysterious going on... I loved peeling back the layers to this story.
7. (+) The Ending - Beautiful. It was complete... and then Derting added a little bit of unresolved tension--not enough to ruin the ending, not like a cliffhanger. No, just enough for me be like wow, that sounds like it would make for a fantastic sequel should she decide to develop it. Please tell me this is a part of a series. Damn, Goodreads doesn't have it listed. Hmm...
8. (+) The Writing - An issue I had with The Body Finder was some of the character descriptions... but The Pledge makes it clear how much Derting's writing has matured. I called Charlaina smart. I'd say this writing is smart. Derting alludes to the secrets you find out about the characters in such subtle ways-- I sort of shrugged off the hints and continued reading... until I came across another revelation and thought back to the brilliant foreshadowing...I already mentioned her talent for suspense building... and Derting's descriptions are also fantastic (see world-building comment above!). Also, my God! What an explosive Prologue. Great beginning to the story. Great writing all around.
9. (+) Pacing - I was immersed in this novel. At one point -- when I was 30 pages from the end - my brother came into my room to discuss Game of Thrones or something; really, all I could think was: ssshhh, John, I need to finish this book. I didn't put my computer down until I had finished reading.
10. (+) The Cover - How isn't this cover beautiful? I love the dark theme and the little slit for Charlaina's head and the font and even the big, all encompassing letters... and can I say how much I love the title and how Derting used it as a theme throughout?
Yes, all of them are likes. I really can't think of anything which I majorly disliked -- I mean I mentioned the intense romance & the way the villain finds out about Charlie bothered me & maybe that the book's inciting incident was a bit later than I expected, but those were all very minor things.
On the whole, I seriously loved this book -- it's chock full of suspense, danger, and romance and is altogether a must read for fall 2011. Mark your calendars, guys. November 15th isn't a date you'll want to miss ;).