Release Date: October 7, 2014
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.
Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.
Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.
Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
I should have reviewed this ages ago because I’m still so impressed with what Marie Lu managed to do with The Young Elites but I’m also the worst when it comes to reviewing the books I want everyone to read. (Women of the Otherworld, Croak, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, A Mad Wicked Folly, I’ll Meet You There, Kate Daniels, most of the Marchettas including Lumatere, etc. It’s a problem.) However, Angie (<333) gave her ARC of The Rose Society to Gillian (<333) to give to me and I’ve promised myself I couldn’t start it until I’d reviewed the first book. And I really, really want to start The Rose Society. So here goes.
The Young Elites reads as the origin story of a supervillain or possible anti-hero. I think Lu has decided to go with the supervillain angle and I couldn’t be more pleased. For the first half of the book, I couldn’t tell if I actually liked the book or if it was an effect of her beautiful writing, which is very imaginative and makes it super easy to picture the gorgeous settings. I’m probably reaching here, but I like to think this was thematically significant because it’s more or less what Adelina goes through with her gradual initiation into the Dagger Society. She’s at first completely overpowered by the opulence of the Kennetran court and people actually treating her as a human being for once (at first. I have some major issues with this society which I’ll get to in a moment). I loved her interactions with Raffaele. I especially loved the moment when he was dressing her up and they’re a bit flirtatious and she starts fantasising about what it would be like to have sex with him. More girls and women being shown to have sexual fantasies, please, because it’s a thing that happens quite regularly.
And now as for why I’m unimpressed with the Dagger Society. At first, I was all for them because they’re this group of Malfetto rebels who like to start shit and fuck with the regime that’s trying to oppress them and make them into universal outcasts. However, I’m so unimpressed with their ideology. First of all, they don’t really care for malfettos in general and don’t even want rights for all of them, but just stand up for the “useful” elite. They also embellish their “flaws”, a.k.a. the markings the blood fever from a decade or so ago left on their faces and bodies, but they hide them instead of owning them. Part of this is a safety measure, because they can’t have the palace guard and other officials recognising them. Side note, I saw someone describing the queen and Teren (the guy in charge of finding and executing Malfettos who is incidentally in a great crackship with Adelina I mean what) as Cersei Lannister and the self-flagellating monk from The Da Vinci Code, which is actually super true and also kind of awesome. They’re not really prominent characters, especially the queen, but I just wanted to mention it.
So I was a bit disappointed with this whole “hide your markings” ideology because it wasn’t all for safety only. I wanted Adelina to embrace every part of herself, every bit of darkness and every marking, and walk into the room with this arrogant look on her face, straight-up owning her shit and not feeling the least bit bad about it. She isn’t there yet, but she’s certainly developing in that direction, which is one of the many things that makes so excited to get started on The Rose Society. For some reason, the Daggers don’t feel the same way, which is what I hate about these losers. It’s all in the little wolf nickname. In the beginning, I liked it, because I thought they used it as a way to show her that she’ll grow into her powers and become this mighty beast. But apparently they do want her to become the White Wolf as long as that means she fully controls her power, and more importantly, that they can control her and what she does. She can rise as a powerful player but only if she doesn’t rise above their prince-leader. They want her to suppress the darkness and ambition within her and the moment she shows any sign of not being completely in control (which is not so weird considering she was made to feel ashamed and afraid of her powers HER ENTIRE LIFE and is still LEARNING AND STRUGGLING YOU FUCKERS) she’ll be put down as the rabid dog they assime her to be.
I realise I’m being very dramatic about this but I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s fond of Adelina actually wants her to be unleashed on the world instead of constantly forcing her to keep back part of herself. It’s why I dropped the Enzo/Adelina ship halfway through, even though I was mildly into it before. I also had great visions of her and Enzo rising up and taking over together, and then Adelina turning against him but View Spoiler » then Lu KILLED HIM AND HOLY SHIT I’M SO IMPRESSED PLEASE DON’T BRING HIM BACK I DON’T WANT SOME GOING TO THE UNDERWORLD TO RETRIEVE HIM STORY LINE. And now it will the The Rose Society against the Dagger Society, which is EVEN BETTER because I do think Raffaele genuinely cares for Adeline in some way. And seeing how both of them have been affecyed by Enzo’s death in completely different ways is probably going to hurt him but WHATEVER RAFFAELE YOU DESERVE THIS FOR WANTING TO KILL HER HOW DARE YOU I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU I HOPE YOU REGRET EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR LIFE BECAUSE IF NOT ADELINv WILL PROBABLY MAKE SURE YOU WILL PREEETTY SOON. God, I love this entire set-up so much. It’s exactly the kind of tragedy I live for. « Hide Spoiler Putting the above in spoilers tags because it’s a pretty big spoiler but a very GOOD one. Vague side notes: the Raffaele/Enzo ship was so real but Enzo was a dick and also Adelina/Raffaele very much have Bad Blood as the soundtrack to their relationship.
The great thing about this entire set-up is that Adelina is supposed to hate being held back. She takes issue with their elitism and wants break free from the Dagger Society, which is why the subplot involving her sister Violetta confuses me. I hate her. I hate how she justifies her actions and how Lu concludes this story line with Adelina thinking Violetta is the only one who ever gave her kindness without strings attached, especially because you can tell so clearly just how conditional this kindness is. And the fact that Violetta manipulates Adelina into thinking she was doing her a favour makes their relationship extra gross and abusive. View Spoiler » Adelina’s father physically abused her because she’s a Malfetto. Turns out Violetta is also a Malfetto but she didn’t have any physical markings that are as visible as Adelina’s hair or eye. Look, I’m not mad that Violetta hid the fact that she also had powers. What I am mad about is that she actively used her power to suppress Adelina’s which led to her father beating her even more because he thought his daughter was absolutely useless, and that she was perfectly aware of this and kept suppressing her powers anyway. She even admits that Adelina had to suffer so she could be safe and I JUST WANT SOMEONE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THIS AND KILL HER. She doesn’t even feel the need to apologise for facilitating the abuse instead of, oh, I don’t know, not suppressing her sister’s powers and maybe working with her to find a way out of that abusive and manipulative household. Nope, instead she made sure Adelina wouldn’t fight back just so she could be safe. I hate her. « Hide Spoiler
Because I’d been going through Lu’s TYE pinterest board every since the book had been released, I totally expected Maeve to play a much larger role in this book. The whole time, I was waiting for her to show up, but she only makes an appearance in the epilogue. To be fair, though, WHAT KIND OF APPEARANCE. I pre-ordered The Rose Society immediately and I’m so ready to read more about this ambitious queer warrior queen(-in-training?). View Spoiler » The one thing I hope is that her introduction isn’t some way to bring Enzo back. I know the possibility is there with Maeve being a resurrectionist and all that, but it will turn the story line into something trite. Plus, it will probably lead to a reversion of Adelina. He might have given her some basic training and opened her eyes to a lot of the world around her but it’s good he was only a part of the first book. What’s dead should stay dead. « Hide Spoiler Maeve’s character isn’t the only thing that promises more epicness to come. The Young Elites has some truly excellent moments and lines. The chapter headings that delve deeper into the mythology are gorgeous and I just want to know MORE. Lu has a tendency to over-explain things when she could easily live things a bit more to the imagination, but at the same time you can see her crafting the Daggers into (more) human reincarnations of the gods and angels. Adelina is the Angel of Fear, Enzo the Angel of Fury, Gemma the Angel of Joy, etc. I’m so intrigued.
The Young Elites is by no means a perfect book, but I’m so impressed with what Lu already managed to accomplish. The pacing is a bit off at times but it all comes together in the end and HOLY SHIT DOES IT EVER. Lu did a few things I hadn’t expected from her, based on the fact that she had a tendency to keep her characters so clean and almost blameless in her Legend trilogy, which is why I was so disappointed with the sequels in that series. None of that here, though. Objectively, Adelina does terrible things but when other characters have the nerve to point that out and actually turn on her I’m like HDU SHE’S GREAT. She’s so completely wrong for this world. There’s no place for her to go or any place where she’ll belong. Even as the White Wolf she stands quite alone. There’s no way for her to fit in or adapt and I don’t even want her to. I hope she burns it all down (possibly with a bloodthirsty malfetto girl gang of her own) because it will be epic.
One of them jokes about cornering me the next time I walk alone in our garden. I laugh with him. I imagine mixing poison into his tea, then watching his face turn purple and anguished; I picture myself leaning over him, looking on patiently, with my chin resting in my hands, admiring his dying, writhing body as I count out the minutes.
Once upon a time, a prince fell madly in love with a demon from the Underworld. When she disappeared back into the sea, he ached so much for her that he walked into the ocean and never returned.
The only way to clamp down on my energy is to erase my emotions, and so I fold them each away, one by one. My sorrow turns to anger, then to ice-cold fury. My soul curls in on itself in defense. I am gone. I am truly gone. I am not sorry.
I pledge myself to the Rose Society until the end of my days, to use my eyes to see all that happens, my tongue to woo others to our side, my ears to hear every secret, my hands to crush my enemies. I will do everything in my power to destroy all who stand in my way.