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.
Charlie has a secret that she must keep at all costs. She can understand any language, which normally wouldn't be a problem, but there is no equality in her world. The people are strictly separated into classes with a language barrier for each one. To violate the laws of language means an immediate death. She's lived her entire life on edge, and can only let go in the underground clubs where a person's class is of less importance. Her careful existence is completely shaken up when she meets the mysterious Max who speaks a completely new language to her. She instantly has an inexplicable attraction to him, but she must be very careful or her secret may just reveal itself, costing her more than she could ever have imagined.
The world behind The Pledge, while horrific, was also quite fascinating. By making languages a class separator, control over the people is quite complete, especially considering the extreme consequences of not lowering you head when a higher class speaks. We are talking public execution with the onlookers cheering at your death. In fact the fear of the queen is so great that parents will sacrifice their own children by naming them as traitors without even blinking. This harsh reality makes it extremely important for Charlie to hide her secret understanding of all the languages. I cannot imagine how difficult her life must have been growing up and trying to hide the fact that she understands everyone, no matter their class. She cannot show even the slightest hint of understanding no matter the foul things that are said about her. Her will power is remarkable, but then again she didn't have much of a choice as it was either that or death.
To be honest, I wasn't really feeling the romance too much at first in The Pledge. I wouldn't say that I didn't care for it, just that I was more indifferent than anything. I think the world and Charlie's plight had me more enthralled than the attraction to Max did. There was just too much unknown about him other than him speaking a strange language. As time went on and secrets were revealed, I started to appreciate him more, and the determination on both sides. I can't really say much, because those revelations would be pretty big spoilers, but suffice it to say, Max impressed me in the end.
The outcome of The Pledge was quite predictable, almost from the very start, but surprisingly that didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. It was just as much fun to watch everything unfold while trying to figure where everyone's loyalties lie. There also was some interesting surprises along the way that added to the overall story as well. The Pledge could have easily been a stand alone novel, but just enough was hinted at in the epilogue, to make me eager for more, but grateful for the lack of a cliffhanger. Still, I look forward to getting my hands on the next installment in this trilogy. The Pledge was a pretty impressive read set in a haunting world that you won't want to miss.