Friday, March 16, 2012

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

[description from 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.


Although I mostly hate to use this word because of the negative connotation, my feelings on The Pledge can be succinctly summed up with "interesting." I definitely mean that in a good way, but I have a few issues with this book too.

I have to give props to this book for its unique dystopian setting; it's set in the future but the dominating tension between social classes and inclusion of a matrilineal monarchy give it a sort of medieval feel. This tense setting makes for an exciting environment, especially when conflict begins erupting between different levels of society and Charlie is forced to be a part of it because of her gift of language comprehension. However, more often than not it felt like I was supposed to just assume this was a terrible place to live in. I mean, living in this society would suck, but often I never directly saw the worst parts of it. For example, I never really understood what the queen did as ruler, let alone the harsher aspects of her rule, because it's just never discussed in detail and she never seemed to have much influence on the day-to-day events.

I'm similarly not too enthused about the other characters-- I like Charlie but everyone else seemed to exist more in terms of their role in Charlie's life or in the rebellion. Although the point of view occasionally switches to cover the actions of people other than Charlie, these shifts are so random that I almost would have preferred they weren't there-- it just didn't make sense why one chapter out of twenty would be given to someone else, especially since the new perspective added little in terms of characterization. They didn't make me understand any more Max and Charlie's interest in each other, the queen's abilities, or much of anything else from the characters. However, they did add a lot of excitement to the plot. Some of the twists were obvious but fun nonetheless, and the abundance of them make the book consistently exciting.

Flat characterization and the lack of information about the society prevented me from loving The Pledge, buts its action and potential for more development in future series installments is enough to make me want to read book two.

Book details: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: sent by publisher for review


  1. I agree with your review - I thought the premise was very interesting but the execution needed some work.

    I also found it strange that there is going to be a sequel when this book had a pretty solid conclusion.

  2. That seems to be the general consensus-weak characters. I know that was my assessment of the book. Luckily the pacing was good and kept me flipping through the pages. I'm on the fence about if I want to read the next book.