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Book Reviews

Review: ‘The Pledge’, Kimberly Derting

October 31, 2011

I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: ‘The Pledge’, Kimberly DertingThe Pledge (The Pledge #1)
Written by Kimberly Derting
Published November, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry
320 pages
Provided by: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab
Genres: Dystopian
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three-stars

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.

The Pledge is an enjoyable escape, but unfortunately it followed the ‘usual’ YA formula too closely for my liking and this prevented me from really getting involved with the story and its characters. This book was a well of untapped potential; the things I liked about it – and found quite unique – were severely underused. There was, however, a unique flavour to The Pledge that I think readers will enjoy.

I think I should first mention that Kimberly Derting is always an author I’ll have a shot at reading. I enjoyed the first two books in her Body Finder series well enough, so when I heard about The Pledge and read that killer synopsis, I was ecstatic. I forget how long I’ve been waiting for this one – but it’s been quite a while. I’d built up my own imagining of this story before reading, and I was disappointed to find the reality of it very different. Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t get as much out of The Pledge as I’d hoped.

Yes, I gave it 3-stars because it IS enjoyable, but I was hoping for a little more substance. I was hoping that this book would be THE Kimberly Derting book I finally awarded 4-stars (or more) to. As with The Body Finder series, I felt like this one had so much potential, but fell too easy into the usual trap of overused plot turns and devices. The jewel was somewhere hidden in the pages, but never completely ‘found’ in my opinion. I kept waiting on this story to really grip me, and it didn’t. I keep feeling that Kimberly Derting ALMOST, ALMOST hits the mark… and then doesn’t. It’s quite frustrating, because I really want to love her books, but I always seem to come out on the other end thinking – ‘oh, that was alright‘.

However, the thing that I loved most about The Pledge was the twisted, odd, medieval vibe it threw off. Sure there were the usual dystopian things like citizen identification and such, but there were also things like candle-lit rooms and Queen’s Royal guards and such – I was reminded a little bit of Alice in Wonderland, with the Red Queen and her subjects. But, despite the enormous amount of material Kimberly Derting had to play with concering Ludania, the world itself was left rather undeveloped and flat.

I wanted more about the Revolution of the Sovereigns. I wanted more about the Queen’s life, about why she was so easily detached from her own daughter in the beginning. I wanted to learn more about Xander – and Max, and his life in the castle with his icy grandmother. I wanted to know more about Brook, about Aron and his possible involvement in the rebel movement. There was so much stock here, tied together with Charlie’s abilities, that just went entirely unused and blotted out.

I was also hoping Charlie would have ANOTHER ability. I mean, her sister got two at such a young age. And Charlie’s ability seemed to be a ‘given’ considering her true identity. I don’t want to give anything away for people who haven’t read the book yet, but her abilities could’ve been simply something natural for someone like her and Angelina should have had the same ability as her sister from the start.

As for Charlie’s relationship with Max, well… it was okay, and that’s about it. I wasn’t exactly cheering them on or wishing them apart. What I got from them was a kind of neutral feeling. I felt it went through all the usual motions found in other Young Adult books – you know, when the heroine is drawn to the ‘somewhat dangerous’ guy, even though her common sense is telling her to stay away? I was hoping The Pledge would offer something different, but alas.

Though… there was one thing concerning Max that completely caught me off guard. I was happy about that!

The Pledge is an enjoyable read; but if you’ve gotten your hopes up reeeally high, like me, you may be disappointed with what you find. I must add that I’m surprised (and a little deflated) to find out that this is the start of a SERIES. I was quite comfortable for this one to be a standalone, given the ending… but then I read the epilogue, and I kind of had to stifle a groan as I realised it was leading into another book. Why?

I’m not going to make up my mind here and now. I might give the next book another go if I’m so inspired, but then again – I may not. I’m not sure I feel the need to dive back into Charlie’s world after a pretty tight-wrapped ending like that. For me, all that was said and done was good enough for me and I don’t see a reason right now to return to Ludania. There isn’t enough pull after reading the last pages for me to want to dive back in.

Recommended to: If you want a dystopian/medieval twist, try The Pledge. It follows the usual formula, but there are a small handful of twists and turns that may surprise you.

About Kimberly Derting

Kimberly Derting lives in the Pacific Northwest, the ideal place to write anything dark or creepy... a gloomy day can set the perfect mood. She lives with her husband and their three beautiful (and often mouthy) children who provide an endless source of inspiration.

4 Comments

  • Reply Cialina November 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Gah. I’ve been on the fence about this for a while… and it’s taking a long time for me to convince myself to read this. I may just have to pass after all especially if you say that it follows the usual YA formula. I can think of so many books that follow said formula and I haven’t been a fan of them. :/ I’m not a fan of Derting either so I’m not convinced to pick this one up. Thanks for the review. You saved me some trouble.

  • Reply Braiden October 31, 2011 at 9:28 am

    This was one book I was looking forward to but ever since seeing April at Good Books and Good Wine rate it 2 stars (she knows what she’s talking about) I just found myself all of a sudden on the ‘don’t touch this book’ side of the fence.

    And with that sisters thing with one with the ability and one not, sounds like Firelight. But I’m sure it’s been used multiple times before.

  • Reply Danya October 31, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I’m sorry to hear this one disappoints! I’ve seen several bloggers react the same way so my expectations are definitely lowered now, unfortunately :( The premise of the world sounds very cool so it’s too bad that it’s so severely under-developed. And also a pity the romance follows typical YA conventions. Thanks very much for the review, you touched on all the important aspects and gave me a good idea of what to expect from The Pledge :)

  • Reply Steph October 31, 2011 at 4:47 am

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as I hoped either. :( I agree that it had a lot of good elements there, with the potential to make this a truly great read, but Derting didn’t use them in a standout way.

    It’s all even more disappointing when you know it’s not a standalone. I’m kind of curious to see what she does with the next installments, but right now I don’t think I’ll be diving into the next books.

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