Pledging Season is a well-written YA coming-of-age fantasy with dragons and intriguing gender roles.
The story’s themes of cultural identity, socioeconomic power dynamics, and nonviolent conflict resolution are nuanced and thoughtful.
I’d characterize it as a fresh mashup of Dragonriders of Pern, Divergent, and Egalia’s Daughters.
- Stories where kindness wins the day, such as The Goblin Emperor
- Stories of living without violence such as Always Coming Home
Ya’shul is a teenage boy making the transition to adulthood. He worked on a scientific discovery that should cement his position as foremost among the young male pledges--but instead his longtime collaborator, and the woman he hopes to pledge to, takes sole credit.
As a male in this culture, he can’t protest without seeming “pushy” and unattractive.
Andeshe is a Wanderer, a nomadic dragon rider. Among the Wanderers, gender is dependent on position rather than biology, which initially confuses Ya’shul. (I loved this aspect of the story--probably because I've used a similar trope in my novel-in-progress.)
The Wanderers are building tunnels near Ya’shul’s people to protect themselves from upcoming solar flares--flares that will likely kill Andeshe’s beloved dragon.
The story of Pledging Season takes place on a distant planet in the far future, where humans have learned to adapt to a harsh alien environment, though have brought their “human natures” with them from Earth. (For more on human nature, read my review of Paradise Built in Hell.)
I enjoyed Pledging Season. The characters were multidimensional and their motivations logical for young people trying to navigate adult roles. The layers of politics and economics were revealed in small doses and oblique hints, which added to the verisimilitude (semblance of reality).
My only quibble is that the book didn’t have a satisfying conclusion--it felt like the author was setting up the next installment in the series. This is a common practice in publishing (ending a book with an open question or cliffhanger), but one I find annoying. To be fair, the book's themes don't lend themselves to neat, tidy resolutions. Despite this "literary" non-ending, the story was compelling and immersive, the characters and cultures fascinating.
I look forward to reading the next book!