Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Format: eGalley (courtesy of GalleyGrab)
Genre: Dystopia, Young Adult
Publication Date: 11.15.2011
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….
For some reason I thought this book was set in modern times when I began reading. I hadn't read the synopsis for a while, so I was judging it by the cover (which looks fairly modern to me). I was confused for a while because I couldn't tell if the characters were from the Middle, Victorian, or modern ages. Their mannerisms, speech, and even some of their gadgets seemed to be from different periods. I got it worked out after a few chapters, but it was confusing at first.
The book starts off strong with great characters, interesting relationships, and with hints of a big, huge, secret that I wanted in on right away. The social system and the powers that the characters have, are different than I have come across. The language laws are too cool for school; not that I support them (go free agency!), but I find it interesting that they were put in place as a way to separate different social classes. I can see how--in the mind of a dictator--separating classes by languages would make perfect sense. Along this same line, I also found the Queen fascinating. Even though she's evil, I wanted to keep reading about her so I could explore her personality and history. Am I terrible for always loving the bad guys? They have such complex personalities that I love to dissect.
As far as other characters: there is your handsome and charming guy, who actually speaks like a character who would like to invest quality time with the object of his desire, instead of merely making cheap sexual jabs at her and scorching her with his eyes (yep, I think I'm in love); there is the best friend who is cooler than your average best friend (you'll see why); there is another friend who is loyal above all else; and then there are the parents who are blissfully present in the story, even if they aren't spoken about frequently. I really enjoyed the characters.
But somewhere in the middle of the story, I realized that I was predicting everything that happened. What began as something fresh, turned into something mostly formulaic. It was at this point that I found myself bored--not with the story itself--but because I knew what would happen, and when. I knew the formula, and it detracted from my overall experience.
Despite that, the story still held my interest all the way through to the end, where something very interesting was revealed that I can't wait to read more of in the next book. If you love adventures and love stories, and don't mind something that sticks close to formulas that have been done before, this will be a great book to read.
...you like pure good vs. evil featuring dictators, special powers, and handsome men.
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