The Pledge

By KIMBERLY DERTING

Charlaina, nicknamed Charlie, unlike many of her friends — Brooklynn, Cheyenne — is not named for one of the “many faraway, long-ago cities” that were destroyed or renamed after the revolution. She is a member of the Vendor class — one step above Serving; one step below Counsel — moderately educated, marked by the hard work visible on their hands and their “practical” clothing, in shades of “gray, blue, brown and gray,” made of “durable and hard to soil” fabrics like “wool, cotton and canvas.” In Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge, members of each class literally have their own language; to look at a member of a higher class while they are speaking their unique language is punishable by death.

Charlie, however, is the only person she knows who, from birth, has been able to understand both the universal language common to all classes, and the three distinct, class-based languages. This gives her often unwelcome insights (her neighbor’s racist rants about immigrants; the exact nature of the snubs she and her friends get from the Counsel girls at the prep school with the slippery marble steps). And like her six-year-old sister’s ability to heal wounds, it is a talent, according to her parents, which will be fatal to their entire family if discovered.

With her voluptuous best friend, Brooklynn, Charlie frequents secret clubs, like one at which the hand stamp is embedded with hallucinogens and the comely youth of all classes mix freely. It is there that she meets “predatory,” silver-eyed Xander, “dangerously boyish and beautiful Max” — and hears and comprehends a language she has never heard before. Futuristic punk, medieval dynasties, social commentary, swashbuckling revolutionaries, and a dash of magical powers combine to make this a swift, sequel-friendly read.

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