2014 EVENTS:
Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and James Dawson - 30th October
Becca Fitzpatrick - 15th November

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

REVIEW: The Pledge - Kimberly Derting

Wednesday, 5 March 2014
GENRE: Fantasy/Dystopia
PAGES: 384
PUBLISHER: Allison & Busby
FORMAT: Paperback
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 4 Stars

Words are the most dangerous weapon of all...Seventeen-year-old Charlaina knows she has exceptional but perilous powers. In the far future, in a land controlled by an aged and ruthless queen, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. Even acknowledging a member of the ruling class while they are speaking their native tongue is punishable by death. Charlie can understand all languages, a secret she must protect to stay alive. When she meets the alluringly handsome Max, who speaks in a language she hasn't heard before, she is intensely attracted to him. Max believes that Charlie is the key to something bigger and he pledges to protect her. But as war descends, can she trust him?

This is another book I've picked up in order to fuel my obsession with Young Adult Dystopian novels and, thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. The main gist of the story is that Charlaina, the main narrator, is born with the power to understand any language. This is especially significant as the story is set in a country that specifically rules its class hierarchies through language. It is also reminiscent of the story of Anastasia and the Russian Romanov family (without giving too much away).

The Pledge has a very easy narrative, and I absolutely flew through it. It wasn't perhaps the most exciting book I've read so far this year but it did keep me on my toes. It successfully did what any Dystopia should do - kept you guessing where the characters loyalties lay. Was Charlaina about to be taken advantage of and duped, or is she actually playing a smart game? Being able to understand anyone puts her in the best position for gaining information to use for her advantage.

I did felt, though, that for a book that put so much emphasis on language it could have been a little more creative in its actual narrative, but perhaps it did benefit from having clean, straight writing. However I did enjoy place names becoming people's names in order to keep the old world alive. I would liked to have seen a little more of other characters; common every day people, just to see their thoughts on the society. It was obvious that the majority of normal folk went along with the class system and it seemed to suit them fine, even cheering along with the hangings to show their support for the Queen. I suppose I just wanted to hear more a little more general dissent!

At the beginning of the book we are told that the Queen is technically the same person that has been on the throne for a long time, just transferring her 'Essence' into another willing body as her current one begins to die. Although I found this bit of the story a little tedious, it did begin to explore the stories interesting take on the gender debate. Charlaina's society is primarily a Matriachy - but not Feminist in an extremist man-hating way. I felt that the story didn't always fully explore this, that it was just a fact that people lived with. The Queen herself dislikes men and feels that they are unsuitable for the throne but never really answers why. 

Men are actually portrayed in two ways: firstly the lecherous leering bouncer of the clubs that Charlaina and her friend visit. These club aren't strictly illegal but are similar to warehouse parties. What did annoy me a little was that there was no backlash for these underage girls begin in a club illegally, and Charlaina must have being doing it for a number of years because she has very few worries about the alcohol or the, yes, drugs. In fact it all seemed a little too normal for her.

Secondly there is the Knight in shining armour, the must for any YA novel, in the forms of Xander and Max, and even in her dad. Her Dad is actually one of the most revealing characters. He understands and tries to impress the importance of keeping any differences quiet, which is difficult when its something as not responding to something that you're not supposed to understand. Max is The Pledge's leading man, and he won't disappoint. Even I liked him. He's shown to be fiercely loyal and selfless, sweet and even funny. Needless to say their romance is a sweet one, and I like the way it almost takes a backseat to the events around them.

I really enjoyed The Pledge and I would recommend it as a good Summer read. It'll keep you occupied while you wile away the hours down at the beach.

- Bex.

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