Author: Christina Garner
Review: The prologue of Pledge was short but surprisingly ominous and dark. I genuinely didn’t know whether to smile or be very afraid. The opening chapter introduces us to our protagonist Eden who is preparing to leave for college. We also see she has some issues for which she takes medication but we aren’t privy to the illness itself just yet. Throughout the first chapter we get tiny glimpses into Eden’s past and we begin to see why she takes medication. I also understand her reasons for wanting to escape her old life completely and start afresh somewhere new. Eden while we don’t know much about her at this point is an extremely complex character with astounding depth and at times it almost seems like she has multiple personalities as she switches between a calm Eden and an internally raging Eden is seconds but this is just her way of processing things going on around her.
We learn very quickly that there is something extremely off with Coventry House and all isn’t right not just with the building but with the girls as well. Knowing in advance that this book is a fantasy novel I am assuming that the girls in question are different i.e.; witches, vampires ect. As we approach the 1/4 way mark all the girls are narrowed down to just 13 including Sarah and Eden whose final test went very differently to what I was expecting and the secret behind Coventry House is being revealed slowly but one of the girls makes the connection to a coven (of witches). So far I like Eden as a character but I am more drawn to Sarah as we have some proper backstory on her and she just seems more naturally likeable. The writing style Garner uses is simple yet effective making the book quick and easy to read and you start flying through the pages before you know it. The girls who choose the path to pledge themselves to the coven are put through a terrifying ritual and I am genuinely surprised none of them wet themselves as I definitely would, Eden realises at the last second that to fully pledge herself she has to die and be reborn but as what I dont know. One thing I really liked about this novel was its accuracy especially about the pagan themes and rituals and as mythology fans like me will know witch covens are closely associated with paganism. One thing I did notice about the ritual was that the coven doesn’t have one ruling goddess but four each represented by one of the four elements; earth, air, water and fire, which was something I found very interesting to read. As Eden awakens she is fully initiated into the coven as with her fellow sisters is about to walk a path of discovery and to fully learn and accept her new life.
After the pledges discovers their magic they begin their training and Eden seems to be a completely natural conjuring in seconds what took others hours, I would bet she is the most powerful pledge there. On the other hand Sarah really struggles with even the simple spells, this may because of her past or some other mysterious reason. As the girls come to terms with their magical power which pleases Eden greatly we also see her plagued by mysterious and disturbing nightmares. Even thing seems to be going fine until Eden gets locked in a restaurant bathroom leading to a flashback or hallucination making her extremely jumpy, but it turns out she may have reason to be as we are introduced to an extremely sinister character called Mael who is following Eden but the reason for his hate towards her is still surrounding in mystery. Sarah also seems to forget about her issues with Coventry House and slowly settles into a normal student life even making a few friends outside of the pledge group and she is quite drawn to Kai which was an interesting relationship to see develop and I am waiting to see if this develops romantically or not, I think it would be good for Sarah as a primary character to have a strong love interest to match and rival Eden’s.
As we approach the half-way point in the novel we see Carolyn help Eden with her nightmares. One thing I have noticed about the book is that action wise nothing has happen apart from a lot of character development. We see many relationships develop my favourite being Hannah and Caleb who happens to be her professor, and unlike Sarah and Kai’s relationship it is intense and bright. I also liked how Garner moved slightly away from YA to themes of a more adult nature. Although after a misunderstanding with Caleb, Hannah attempt to cast a love spell on him which backfires leaving him blind. I have a feeling this incident is one of many to come especially since this book is the first in a series. Hannah’s fate is ultimately sealed and she is removed from Coventry House much to Jule’s dismay. Just when things begin to return to normal Hannah is attacked by something unknown despite having her memory altered after leaving Coventry House. So at nearly 60% things begin to take a dark and mysterious turn and I can’t wait to see how the story progresses. Mael makes a reappearance after killing Hannah and Eden is the one to discover her mangled body which hurt me as Eden is already suffering with her own issues but I am glad it wasn’t Jules who had to go through that particular horror. We learn that Mael seeks the coven and killing Hannah was just the beginning he wants to destroy all the witches but his reasoning is still something we are not privileged too.
A lot of scary things ensues after Hannah’s death including the return of Eden’s nightmares. In light of the recent event all the pledges are scared but only Jules is told a portion of the truth. We also learn that the pledges once they have passed their final test to become sisters will learn the truth of the dangerous beings that lurk in the dark. With the final test looming Sarah is falling behind her fellow pledges in learning the simplest of spells, meanwhile Eden and Quinn are being drawn to each other and it is one of the only places that Eden feels truly safe. Eden’s grip on her own demons begins to slip and things begin to spiral out of control even resulted in a fire in Eden and Sarah’s room and Eden knows it was her fault as things like this happened before in Eden’s past. Sarah also begins to edge towards a relationship with Kai, another woman which scares her because of her upbringing in a religious household but she can’t deny the attraction between the two of them. I really enjoyed the emphasis on relationships in this novel and how they intertwine and affect each other in sometimes beautiful and strange ways. But after Kai kisses her Sarah reacts badly calling Kai disgusting effectively ending their friendship but I wanted Sarah to let go of her past and accept herself. Eden also like Hannah cast unapproved magic in order to alter her memories of her past in an attempt to stop herself from starting another fire which could endanger the lives of her friends.
Another dramatic twist occurs when Eden is removed from Coventry House for the same reason Hannah was, but Eden still retains all the memories of magic thanks to magical protection from Carolyn’s blank slate spell. I feel that Eden has a hidden agenda and that everything leading up to this moment was planned. Eden’s plan seems to involve Sarah but she has distanced herself from Eden and Kai only talking with Jules from time to time but Eden is cautious as she knows she cannot arouse Carolyn’s suspicions. All these things seems to point to a dramatic ending to this novel and I am beginning to suspect a cliffhanger is going to be the end of this book as there is just so much going on and Mael has failed to make an appearance since Hannah’s death so I am sure he will be reappearing very soon. The dark and tense mood of the novel hints at darker, more dangerous things to come. As Eden tries to cope with life outside the coven things take a dramatic turn for Sarah during the final test where she senses something is wrong, something is after Eden and each girl facing the final test must confront their darkest fears and their truth.
In the final part of the novel, Eden makes her way to the test house finding some of her friends dead along the way and she knows Sarah is being targeted by Mael and she must stop him but before she can she is dragged away to confront her own demons. Eden manages to banish Mael and uncover her true power, the power to save her friends just as the elder sisters arrive on the scene. Once the battle between Eden and Mael is over, Eden returns to the coven and is permitted entrance due to a technicality and Eden finally feels she has found her home, but she is set new rules to accomodate her extensive magical abilities. The ending of the novel was bittersweet as Eden moves on with her life, we learn of the true threat the being that sent Mael into their world and it had its eyes firmly set on Eden. I can’t wait to read the next novel in this series and I highly recommend this so anyone who likes paranormal YA should definitely read this book.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by the author
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