The Pledge

The Pledge  - Kimberly Derting Having been studying linguistics for years, and being interested in whatever is related to the concept of language in general, I was naturally drawn towards this book. A dystopian society divided in classes (castes, rather) through the means of languages, or rather of lackthereof, for the lowest ones? Of course I was bound to perk my ears, manner of speaking. I wanted to see what the author would do with such an idea.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed.

I did find a few redeemable things in "The Pledge". Events that flowed one into each other, for instance. A fast-paced plot in the second part. And a definitely evil and cunning opponent, who would resort to any means to keep on ruling, because it's what she's always done, and what both people and other rulers expect from a country's leader—in order to hold society together. I like evil characters with a definite agenda. It was clear from the beginning that Sabara would be a bitch, and she didn't disappoint me.

Then came the problems, which turned to be too many for me to enjoy the book.

The role of language, first: why, why, why wasn't it exploited as much as it could have been? There would have been so many interesting issues to develop here, so many possibilities, beyond the evident aspect of "being able to understand what the others can't". Granted, it was presented here as a means to divide people and keep them in their respective castes; however, this was only, in my opinion, a very basic use of the potential destructive functions of language (getting rid of abstract concepts so that people wouldn't be able to express and rally around them anymore, for instance), and it's a shame the author didn't go further with those.

The plot was highly predictable. From the very first chapter, the one with the Queen, I sensed where this would be leading to, and what kind of final confrontation I could expect. Since I don't consider myself a particularly keen reader (I can never find the culprit in mystery novels), it must mean it was really easy to foresee. Worst was the world depicted in the novel. However great and plausible the idea of language as control, the world itself didn't seem very logical to me, continuously poising between dystopia and fantasy, as if the author herself couldn't choose what she wanted to write about. Although it does have a dystopian atmosphere, its roots were very unclear; the names of long-gone cities suggest that Ludania was built on the ruins of the USA, yet what led to its current state jarred too much with such origins. How come a matrilinear monarchy came to replace the former governments, not only in this country, but everywhere in the world? How come people remembered the failure of a 'democratic revolution', but not democracy would have been in place even before the monarchy? (And really, historically-speaking, the USA are one of the last countries I'd expect to see veering towards such a type of government. It doesn't add up.) The powers, too: every Queen is supposed to have some kind of power or powers—Sabara's hint more at magic, even, than at 'mere' psychic powers. How did those appear? Creating a skewed society isn't enough, in my opinion, to make a good dystopia; here it would have been more useful for the author to simply create her own fantasy world.

As for the characters, I never felt any connection with them. Charlie was only special because of her power, not because of her personality. I felt like all she did throughout the story was to let herself be carried by events, never taking any real decision, nor having any real goal (save for 'protect my sister') that would contribute to move the plot forward. I could see no reason why Max, the 'mysterious boy', would be attracted to her with such intensity, and the whole romance moved way too fast. At least Angelina had that mysterious side of never opening her mouth to speak, so it was a cause for mild wonder. But Charlie? I was never interested in her, from beginning to end. The other characters weren't that interesting either, too predictable in their roles and behaviours; I didn't even understand what Sydney's role was supposed to be, because whether she was here or not, it didn't change anything—was she here to show only what pure and kind a soul Charlie is?

I did finish "The Pledge", and managed not to give up along the way; only I found mysef skimming rather than reading (which is why I read it so fast, come to think of it), and this is a dead-ringer that such a book didn't amount to much to me.