It’s no surprise to most of you that I am a massive Marie Lu fan. Ever since I first discovered her at random in my high school’s library as an awkward sophomore student, she among many authors have inspired me to write fiction. In terms of young adult fiction and literature, she can never do any wrong. The characters she writes are original, her worlds vast and lifelike, the stories woven compellingly, and it makes you more hyped with each passing book.
Holy. Crap. Do. I. Love. This. Book.
If you remember my review for Marie Lu’s ‘The Young Elites’ a month ago, you may remember me praising it as becoming one of my most favorite novels of all time, from the anti-hero Adelina, to the settings, to the villains, to the story, to everything that makes this fantasy series so addicting to read. And now we have the sequel to Marie Lu’s bestselling novel from last year, ‘The Rose Society’.
After the events of the first book, Adelina Amouteru is cast out of the Dagger Society and is roaming the sea and land of Kenettra all alone with her sister, Violetta. Betrayed by her friends for the last time, the Young Elite with dark emotions is bent on tearing down the Inquisition Axis, the cruel and unforgiveable Lead Inquisitor Teru, and the Kenettran Queen for all the wrongs done to her, her sister, and all the malfettos of the world. She’ll need to form an alliance of warriors and other Elites, one that will put the Dagger Society to shame. Among those who’ll join her are an infamous kleptomaniac Elite named Magiano with the ability to mimic other Elite’s powers, and an ex-Dagger member named Sergio with the ability to control rainstorms.
However, poor Adelina will have to work against the clock, as she discovers that the Daggers are working with the Beldains, a rivaling country of Kenettra that wishes to turn the beautiful nation into a puppet state governed by the Daggers, with the Queen of Beldain controlling the strings. However, war isn’t what truly disturbs Adelina, it is the fact that the Beldish Queen is a Young Elite herself with a power probably more disturbing and otherworldly than hers.
I cannot get enough of Adelina in this book. This young girl is the epitome of a villainous female hero in literature, and it is unbelievable how scarred and badass of a character Adelina molds herself into. This is what Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars should’ve been in the prequels, being a badass most of the time and a vulnerable human being in the most important moments. You don’t have to make a character overly whiney and then reveal they’re the villain. What sets Adelina apart from Anakin is that she’s a teenager with a power that feeds off of fear and suffering, which shows us that her personality is tuned to her powers, which in turn damage her psyche and moral reasoning. I can just fall in love with her memorable quotes over and over again.
“The world’s deadliest mercenaries choose to serve you, the whispers say, because they have yet to meet me.” ~Adelina Amouteru
However, just because she’s a ruthless anti-hero with dark intentions doesn’t means she’s less than human. Adelina can be insightful to her allies one minute and then order her soldiers to kill captured guards without a second thought. She can be calming her little sister during a thunderstorm one moment and then murder a king with her help the next day. I don’t know how Marie Lu manages to balance all of this and make Adelina’s character look so easily but somebody give her a freaking Pulitzer Prize!
The side character have gone through significant changes as well. I love how lite touches here and there further establish the characters and what they’ve done through simple gestures and words. For example, it’s revealed that the Beldish Queen is in love with a girl in the Dagger Society who can control the wind, but through clever writing, we immediately know how she cannot marry her due to her royalty requiring her to give an heir. It’s simple things like that that make us understand these people more and more.
Teren from the first novel is back with more madness than before, even questioning his devotion to Queen Giulietta of Kenettra when it is revealed she doesn’t hold the same views as he does on what to do with malfettos. He wants to commit genocide on all abominations to the gods, whether they be malfetto or Elite, and cleanse them from Kenettra. However, Giulietta only sees them as a small problem, and only wants to force submission in her kingdom instead of inciting a revolution. . At first, we’re forced to believe that Giulietta is no worse of a tyrant and radical monster than Teren, but Marie Lu incredibly portrayed us two conflicting and powerful people with conflicting and powerful beliefs.
The same is said with the side characters and people that live in this beautiful yet treacherous world. Underneath the Mediterranean-esque architecture and among the beautiful creatures that roam this fantasy land are individuals with unique but dangerous personalities that can clash at any moment on the streets and in alleyways. It is a dark world where people are burned alive at the stake, murdered ruthlessly when undermining authority, religious zealots willing to hurt children in the name of God(s). This would make ‘Game of Thrones’ blush.
I have no complaints at all; this is one of those perfect books for an audience that wants dram, heartache, hope, fantastical environments, and a story that twists and turns at any moment. Is there a downside? Yes. This book trilogy isn’t getting as much attention as it should be. I’m sure you’ve read some reviews that tell you to read a book as soon as you’ve got free time, but I’m recommending this because you’ll never find a book series with such a tortured and complexly villainous hero in any form of recent literature. This is a series that must be known more, especially when it’s been recently revealed that the same people who adapted ‘The Maze Runner’ into a film trilogy is putting this on the big screen. I have no idea where and how this incredible jewel of YA literature will end in the next novel, but I will not hesitate to read the next one.
(Btw, I bet you’re wondering why I brought up Anakin Skywalker in this review. Well, according to Marie Lu herself, she based Adelina’s character off of Darth Vader and Magneto. Nope, I am not joking. Look it up.)
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!
Marie Lu is probably what many consider one of those gifted authors that come out of nowhere. She started off working as an employee for Disney Interactive and quit her job to become a young adult novelist, soon becoming a New York Times bestselling author after publishing ‘Legend’, ‘Prodigy’, and ‘Champion’, her first book trilogy. Heck, her books became so well-loved that a movie for the first book is being discussed as we speak. I remember first reading ‘Legend’ back in high school and instantly falling in love with her works, and came to look at her as an inspiration for writing. She’s smart, talented at character development, and a prodigy when it comes to world-building.
However, I wasn’t looking forward to her next book series when she announced it was going to be a fantasy. If you personally know, I consider the fantasy genre the least favorite of genres I know. To me (aside from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’), fantasy has become so overdone that it’s become its own cliché. Because of this, I thought ‘The Young Elites’ was gonna be a real bore. Still, since I heard Marie Lu was releasing its sequel this coming October, I had to read it sooner than later. And what’d I think after finishing?
I have to stop doubting my favorite authors.
Over a decade after a blood fever ravaged the island nation of Kenettra, children affected by the plague are left with scars that people across the land believe are omens of bad luck and destruction. Those seen with unusual hair color and markings on the skin are given the name ‘malfetto’, an abomination of the Gods. Not only that, there are some malfettos that are believed to be cursed with paranormal powers at their fingertips (i.e. fire-conjuring, fast healing, talking to animals). They are referred to as the Young Elites, and are wanted by Kenettra’s Inquisition Axis to be executed.
One of the Young Elites is a sixteen year-old girl named Adelina, whose powers of conjuring illusions result in her killing her abusive father. Before she’s burned at the stake though by the Inquisitors, Adelina is rescued by the mysterious Dagger Society, a group of powerful Young Elites led by the fire-conjuring banished prince of the royal family named Enzo. Their mission is to incite a revolution and help Enzo seize the throne from his older scheming sister. If they succeed, the prince can enact laws protecting the mafettos and give their right to exist.
Unfortunately, the Dagger Society’s members are reluctant to have Adelina as one of them, as not only are her abilities powerful, but maybe too powerful for her dark emotions to handle. Not only that, but Adelina herself wonders if the Dagger Society truly rescued her out of kindness, or as a means to an end.
Where do I honestly start?
I should probably talk about the main character, as she’s central to the book and molds this all together. Adelina Amouteru is one of the most well-developed, intimidating, emotional, epically written antiheroes I have ever seen. She is everything we want in a character that walks along the grey line of right and wrong. She has the pity and tragic backstory of Zuko, the naiveté emotional problems of Draco Malfoy, and the twisted yet powerful grasp of vengeful desire Alucard has from ‘Hellsing’. She’s emotional, she’s confused, she’s vengeful, she’s angry, she’s awesome, she’s vulnerable, she’s practically everything you ever want in an antihero. And while some of the things Adelina does are questionable, we know her reasons and why she does it. Hell, there are two dozen moments where we root for her, and we understand how much of a train wreck her life was growing up emotionally and physically scarred. You don’t know whether to be afraid of Adelina, feel sorry for her, hate her, or just hug her.
All the other characters in this are well-written as well. We have Enzo, a banished prince (much like Zuko, but a bit more suave and less serious) that is also friends/in love with a Young Elite named Raffaele who has the ability to sense the energy connecting malfettos and other people. Both are presented as handsome, smart, and really tactile guys that want to create a world where malfettos can walk free unashamed, whether it be achieved through murder or revolution.
Even the so-called villain of this story is likeable and relatable. Teren Santoro is a member of the Inquisition Axis (and a secret lover of the queen), and wants to rid his nation of the depravity malfettos have caused on Kenettra. He despises everything about them, and will stop at nothing until his nation is considered pure by the Gods again. However, he also holds a secret of his own, one that he considers more as a plaguing curse rather than a useful gift.
What I find the most refreshing about ‘The Young Elites’ is the fact that unlike other modern fantasy novels, this one is set in a world you want to live in, but also fear of. This world is filled with dangers around every corner, fathers willing to sell their daughters as mistresses to settle debts, harsh people in a savage world, and a deep prejudice towards people who look different (social commentary much?).
It’s weird how an author as extremely talented as Marie Lu went from writing a futuristic dystopian novel to a fantasy novel that throws your expectations and emotion around you like a rollercoaster. In my opinion, what I’ve talked about makes an epic, especially an epic fantasy. We have a complex antihero with emotions that control her complex powers, fantastic world-building ruled by an unforgiving tyrant, funny and likeable side characters that add to the plot, fantastic visuals written page by page, and amazing commentary of social issues today and in the future.
Marie Lu, I cannot wait for the upcoming sequel to my favorite fantasy series!
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!