The Young Elites is the first in a new fantasy series by Marie Lu. Having been a fan of her first series (which includes Legend, Prodigy, and Champion), I was looking forward to this one. Very, very much. Last week Penguin sent me an advanced copy and I dove into it with reckless abandon. I was fearful that it would not live up to my expectations. That said, this book is everything that I wanted it to be and more. Man, do I love me some Marie Lu.
Adelina Amouteru is a sixteen-year-old young woman living on her father’s charity. a decade before Adelina survived a plague that left her (and many like her) marked – a Malfetto. The Malfetto are reviled and feared for what they are, ostracized and pitied and frequently left on their own devices. Among them are a rising number of people who possess the skills to change everything – The Young Elites. The Young Elites all boast fantastic powers that manifest in different ways, and Adelina may just be one of them.
When Adelina accidentally kills her father following a decade of abuse she finds herself sentenced to death. This action sets up a chain of events that bring her to the attention of the Dagger Society; a group of Young Elites who remove others like them from the hands of the Inquisitors. Lead by Enzo Valenciano, the erstwhile prince of Kenettra, Adelina finds herself living in Estenzia among them. But nothing has ever been easy for Adelina. Her sister, Violetta, has been imprisoned by the Head Inquisitor, Teren Santoro, who is purging the Malfettos from the world, empowered or not. He has threatened to kill Violetta unless Adelina provides him with information about the Daggers. The only thing that is currently protecting them is the King, who is married to Enzo’s sister, Giulietta, but power is easily corrupted and these tides shift continuously.
The Young Elites is just as thrilling as Lu’s Legend series, pulse-pounding and exciting. It takes some familiar elements within its own genre and turns them upside down. I couldn’t be happier with this book. It’s perfect.
Adelina is a fantastic character, flawed and proud and full of anger. She goes through so much in this story and it sets up a journey that I, for one, find completely compelling. It’s sometimes hard to love a character like this but Lu’s authorial hand is deft and the impeccable characterization forces the reader to love her. She is bold and fearful and sympathetic, everything that a reader wants.
I also loved that this was not immediately a romantic novel, that the shades of romance take their time to blossom before Adelina even realizes it. It’s refreshing to not have a young adult character easily succumb to insta-love. It makes everything about this novel, and her character, that much more believable. Readers searching for that won’t be disappointed but it takes real-time to develop and I appreciate that so much. It makes what happens throughout the book richer.
Another great thing about this novel – side characters galore! I have been dying for intriguing side characters ever since I read Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky series (Roar FTW!). Lu delivers this element with great finesse. Between Raffaele, Violetta, Lucent, Michel, and Gemma… and, even to a lesser degree, Teren, this book sings with great people. Raffaele was, by far, my favourite. I would read a whole series just about him. And Enzo… sigh. Enzo, Enzo, Enzo. Such a find. Such a great lead.
Marie Lu, you’ve done it again. I hope you are happy with yourself. This book is all the things, reckless and brave and breathtaking. Well done!
5 out of 5 stars.
– Follow the Reader –