Book Review of Kimberly Derting’s “The Pledge” by Otessa Ghadar

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  Book summary: 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  

Fascinating world. Interesting premise. The linguistic themes were particularly alluring to me and the seedy underbelly-
world of the clubs was well handled & deftly described.

Unfortunately, the novel lacked proper characterization. There was too much telling, and not enough showing.
After 323 pages, I have no idea why Max adored Charlie. Meanwhile, Aron seemed to be little more than a plot device. He was something to be picked up when he was useful to the plot, only to be cast off again like a broken toy afterwards — sometimes being discarded for huge chunks of the book. Aron wasn’t allowed to really inhabit “the friend” role, nor was he allowed to embody a “romantic foil” role. Instead he just sort of popped up here and there when the action called for an inciting incident.

“The Pledge” had such great promise; but, it just didn’t reach its full potential.

That said, I realize that this book has some qualities that I just happen to be quite persnickety about — and that these are the exact same qualities that other people adore — namely: a forbidden (will I/wont I/can I trust him) romance, hulking & smirking heroes, evil queens, electric caresses, etc…

If you are a fan of the above, then this book will probably resonant with you. I fear I just wasn’t the book’s demographic :(

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