Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

From Hicklebee’s In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom….

I was very much looking forward to The Pledge. The idea of a fantasy with dystopic vibes based on an evil monarchy had my geek senses tingling. Derting – whose work I have appreciated in the past – has completely outdone herself with this very different and unique story.

As many of you know, my family is multi cultural, my husband and his family speak Dutch and I do not. So when that side of my family is here I am left out of the conversation quite a bit. It is something you really never get used to and it helped me connect with Charlie. Derting uses language as a caste system. The servants speak one language and that is it. Merchant class – like Charlie and her family – speak the servant language and a merchant language. The privileged speak both those and have their own fancy language as well that no one below them can understand. The problem is, Charlie has a very dangerous gift. She can understand all languages – even those she isn’t allowed to understand.

When Charlie hears, and understands, a language she has never heard spoken before she knows her life is about to change. War is coming, and Charlie may be the key to winning. Will Charlie be a beacon for the resistance or Royals? The crown prince is the most interesting boy she has ever met.

Charlie is pulled in so many different directions, she fears for her family, realizes her baby sister is also gifted and in danger from the crown. The Queen is old and dying slowly – she needs a new heir for only a queen can rule. Boy children are disregarded completely.

I love the feministic views in the book, the writing and heck who doesn’t want to be a queen? I do, and I would go dark side if need be.

The Pledge is a perfect blending of fantasy and dystopia. I can’t wait for book two! The book comes out tomorrow! Go grab it and tell me what you think.

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The Familiars by Adam Epstien and Andrew Jacobson

From Goodreads: After three young wizard apprentices are kidnapped by the evil queen of a distant land, it is up to their familiars, their magical animal companions — a street smart alley cat, a precocious blue jay, and a bumbling tree frog — to save them.

Lately I have been in love with Middle Grade fiction. I have made it my mission to learn more about the genre and to incorporate that knowledge into to offer a more wide variety of kid lit for my readers. In the past two months I have had three successful MG reads and The Familiars ranks at the top of my favorites.

I used the Familiars with my brand spanking new book club at Hicklebee’s my local indie bookstore that I am partnered with. I had tons of kids in attendance and they had so many questions for me. Adam Epstien and Andrew Jacobson had visited earlier but some of the kids had missed the author signing. These kids are in luck because the authors gave me their email to give to the kids and I think several of them will use it!

Before my review here are what some of the kids had to say:

Hannah age 13 “I loved this book even more than the Chronicles of Narnia.”
Annora age 10 “I really like that this book is about animals who can do magic instead of humans.”
Jake age 8 “I really like all the magic.”

It was unanimous we all loved this book.

We follow Aldwyn who is your every day alley cat in the city of Bridgetower as he is trying to grab a fish to eat. He is caught and pursued by the towns most awesome pest hunter named Grimslade. Aldwyn jumps into a magic shop window and runs into a cage to avoid being captured and that is where his story begins.

Jack and his wizarding teacher Kalstaff come into the shop to find a familiar as young Jack has come of age. He chooses Aldwyn who immediately begins freaking out because he is just your everyday garden variety alley cat. Aldwyn travels back to the woods with Kalstaff and Jake and meets the other two students and their familiar. A bird named Skylar and a frog named Gilbert.

When the Queen shows up and kidnaps the young wizards it is up to the familiars to set out on a journey to get them back.

The Familiars is full of fantastical magic, and is completely plot driven. Never have I seen such personality given to animals. It was easy to forget these weren’t human characters. I was completely transported and kept in the dark until the very end. I had no idea what the end of the story had in it’s pages for me and all the guessing I did was futile.

I will anxiously be awaiting the next book in this series and am hanging on the edge of my seat for movie news. Adam Epstien and Andres Jacobson have my attention as up and coming Middle Grade writers.

If you love Harry Potter or The Warriors you will adore The Familiars.

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Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron — a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology — a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber — chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison — a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device — a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn’s escape is born …

From the moment I stepped into the slimy grime covered prison known as Incarceron I was in awe of the world that author Catherine Fisher created. You can actually feel the despair and longing of the inmates. The characters are amazingly thought out and so well rounded you actually come to fear for their safety as they attempt a grand escape from the prison that is alive and always watching.

The outside world that Finn and his inmates are trying to get to so desperately is not as golden as they think. On the outside we have Claudia who is the daughter of the warden of Incarceron. She is in her own sort of prison. Doomed to marry the not so noble prince and become Queen of a realm that has forced itself back to Victorian times she is a very unhappy inmate of her father’s making.

You follow Finn and Claudia and several side characters on their dangerous games each are playing to relieve themselves of the bonds that hold them back in life. This is a true dystopian romp through a world without a plot hole to be found. I couldn’t wait for the second book so I ordered it in from the UK and am reading Sapphique now. I will buy a hardback in December because I want the matching set and for once the US covers are more stimulating.

Each chapter is started by a poem or song from the legend of the nine fingered one. I have so much fun reading those.

If you enjoy dystopian, or beautifully created worlds I suggest you pick up Incarceron.

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