My Rating: 3 out of 5
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.
I really liked the main characters though. Charlaina and Maximilian, aka Charlie and Max. Charlaina is the familiar formula for YA heroine. A normal girl who finds out she is special and fights for those she loves and handles herself very well. For some reason she reminded me of Tessa from TID, not just because she fits the same formula. There are many more besides Tessa who fit into it. Max was great. They met fairly early on and it was sort of insta-love. It takes a long time for Charlie to trust him though, and she is always trying to push him away, saying she doesn't know him well enough. But from the very beginning, as soon as she met him she couldn't take her eyes of him. And when he isn't around she is constantly thinking about his stormy gray eyes and deep voice. So it may not have been insta-love, but it was insta-something. Max was sweet, always doing things for her. Things that could get one or both of them killed since they are from different classes. He was romantic, but Charlie was resistant.
But in the end they skipped to a few months later, and skipped all the good stuff that I love about YA romance. The first few nervous kisses, how good it feels when they first touch each other. We missed it all and I was very disappointed. There were some great supporting characters too, such as Xander and Angelina. Angelina was adorable. I didn't like Charlie's best friend Brooklyn though. She was so annoying. With or without the lies, she was a bad friend IMO.
But, the story was the best part. Unbelievably evil society aside. The way we slowly learned that Charlie and her sister are different, without any idea why. Then we meet Max and he seems to know something, but we don't know what. It was building tension and I enjoyed it. And we slowly learn more about the country's history and how that is related to Charlie, and more about the queen and her plans for her country. It was well paced. I was surprised by the ending. It was a good ending, but it was an ending I would have expected for a series, not for the first book. I don't know what will happen in the next two books. But since the ending was good enough already, I hope that new dilemmas aren't thrown at Charlie and Max simply to cash in. I hope the story can continue naturally from here. I look forward to the next book, but it won't be too difficult for me to wait till then
"I pledge to keep you safe."