Author: Kimberly Derting
Series: The Pledge
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab
Links: Amazon | 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.
I love Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series not just because she writes really great, realistic characters but also because of the paranormal elements included in the storyline. So, I was very excited when I heard that she was writing a dystopian book. True, it’s sometimes difficult for an established author to switch genres, or subgenres as the case may be, but Ms. Derting handles this transition like a champ. And I promise I’ll try not to compare the two series/storylines any more than necessary, but I can’t promise I won’t compare The Pledge to other novels in the same category.
That said, this particular dystopian has set itself apart with the inclusion of magic. Whereas most futuristic civilizations in YA literature have been the result of scientific or political interference, The Pledge takes things in a completely different direction. In Ludania, there are still classes. There is a power-hungry queen who will stop at nothing to continue her reign. And there is magic, though only the formidable monarch is able to wield such a supernatural power.
The story begins with a third-person view of the queen in action, but the story is actually told from several points of view, most of them third-person. However, Charlie’s narrative is first-person. Since she is the main character, this makes sense, but I’ll admit that all of the POV transitions were a bit confusing at first. My only real complaint is that is seemed like this was necessary in order to tell the reader what was happening concurrently with the main character’s storyline rather than just showing the reader and letting them figure things out for themselves. I’d much prefer to draw my own conclusions, but that’s me. It doesn’t in any way detract from the story.
Charlie has an unusual gift and she must work hard to keep it a secret. This makes her more observant than most; though for all of her astuteness, she is a little slow on the uptake at times. But, of course, the story couldn’t have progressed in the manner it did without some level of naiveté on the main character’s part. Her innocence does not mean that she doesn’t realize the danger she’s in.
Even so, she can’t help falling for someone who seems to pose an even bigger danger to her. C’mon…you didn’t think Derting would leave out the romance, did you? Fear not, it’s there. Though it’s not the sweet, well-adjusted relationship Violet and Jay have in her other series, it is kind of par for the dystopian genre; which is to say, it’s a little rushed because of the situation the characters find themselves in, but it’s not that creepy, I-want-you-but-I’m-pushing-you-away-to-keep-us-both-safe type of romance, which I’m really starting to despise. Another thing to note, although I thought there was surely going to be a love triangle, and it seemed that there were actually TWO possible triangles to be had, the author did me proud and left that nonsense out. And for that, I heart her even more.
In all seriousness, though, this novel is a great addition to the genre and has solidified Kimberly Derting as one of my favorite YA authors. She took a chance writing something different and it really paid off. Dystopian novels are my favorite reads right now, but then Derting had to go and throw in some magic to shake things up a bit. I was intrigued before, but now I’m downright impressed.