Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

From the Back Cover:

In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom….

My Thoughts:

Queen Sabara is dying. Well, her body is dying. Her Essence has lived for centuries, moving from body to body so she could continue her rule of Ludania uninterrupted. But she can't move to just any body--only females of the royal bloodline have magical abilities, and the queen can only transfer her Essence to their bodies with their consent--and there are no more royal females left. Of Sabara's bloodline, anyway. And there aren't supposed to be any heirs of the royal bloodlines that held power before the revolution. Sabara made sure their descendents were wiped out, ensuring that her bloodline will forever rule Ludania. But her plan has backfired on her. In this lifetime, she's only given birth to a son, and that son has fathered several sons, but no daughters. When rumors reach her ears that a female descendent from a rival bloodline is alive and living in the Capitol city, Sabara is determined to find her at all costs.

Meanwhile, Charlie Hart is just trying to blend in. A member of the hardworking vendor class, Charlie spends her days studying in school and working in her parents' restaurant. The people of the vendor class are a step above those in the servant class, and in addition to the common tongue of Englaise, they're allowed to speak Parshon, the language assigned to their class after the revolution, when the queen decided the best way to keep the people from rising up again was to make sure they couldn't communicate with each other. Or look at each other. To raise your eyes to the face of someone in a class above yours means death.

But Charlie has a problem. She was born with the ability to understand all languages, and that makes it hard for her to keep from looking at people above her when she understands the cruel things they say. Desperate to keep their daughter's secret, Charlie's parents have trained her to keep her head down and to keep people from noticing her, and she's used to her best friend Brook getting all the attention whenever they go out anyway. So when she meets a handsome stranger with eyes only for her at an underground club, she doesn't know how to handle the attention. And when Max starts appearing all over town wherever she is, she starts to wonder who he really is and if he has ulterior motives for seeking her out. She's caught the attention of someone else at the club, too, a dangerous and powerful man named Xander. When the city falls under attack, Charlie is separated from her family, and when she discovers who she really is, she has to decide which of these men she can trust, and what the consequences will be, as the queen's net begins to tighten around her, and as the queen's enemies start looking for her, too.

This is another book that started off strong but couldn't carry its elements of mystery and sophistication through to the end. You won't often hear me say that a novel should have been longer, but thats the case for this one. The author takes two-thirds of the book to set up the story and get all of her players in place--and that's fine with me; I like to have a story teased out and the author did a great job--but then everything else felt rushed as the story raced along to a quick and easy ending. And on the way to that ending, our formerly smart characters make some very stupid decisions yet somehow end up coming out on top of some very implausible situations. Though four characters take turns telling the story, the only character who is fully fleshed out is Charlie, since most of the story comes from her first-person POV. Every other player in the story suffers from a real lack of character depth. Max and Xander take a couple of quick turns giving us insight into other aspects of the story, but we only get to know them superficially, and Queen Sabara is so ridiculously, one-dimensionally evil that it's hard to take her seriously.

Bottom line: A fairly original story premise starts out strong with a gritty and dangerous vibe, and a great heroine, but grows weaker and loses its credibility, devolving into melodrama and a series of "yeah, right" moments. But I was hooked and loving it for the first 250 pages, and the sexual tension between Charlie and Max is smokin', so it gets bumped up a notch, and there is a very interesting situation in place for the next book in the trilogy. So not a bad book, but not a great one, either.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. I was very curious about this book, I really like the cover. But I saw a lot of mixed review too... I think I will wait a little to read it. Great review !

  2. Love your review and your fabulous blog! How can I not..I'm a Marie Antoinette afficianato from forever. :] I'm following for all I'm worth. Please come visit me when you catch a moment. I'm going to find this book you've reviewed!


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