I go bananas for books featuring female characters with agency. I go crazy for stories where the heroine’s story is her own, and she isn’t immediately (or at any point of the journey) chasing after a male stud. I go berserk for novels where the ‘strong’ female lead is something other than an Arthurian / Christ figure; a great redeemer whose motives and background are as pure as her faultless morals. I like grit. I like interesting women. I hate when the first word used to describe a woman, or a young girl, is “nice.” For these reasons, and many more, I knew I was going to like Adelina Amouteru. Her motivations are dark and her past is fractured. The way Marie Lu twisted my expectations and surprised me again and again was breathtaking! Thank you, Marie Lu, for not underestimating your reader.
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.
Adelina’s story hooked me right away. Her relationship with her abusive father was heartbreaking, bitter, and yet full of honesty, which transcended the fantasy setting. Not to mention Adelina’s unbreakable tether to her sister, which seemed to keep her humanity in check, was deeply felt throughout The Young Elites. This tale is shadowed in darkness, and I found this raw approach to storytelling invigorating, reminding me of one of my all time favorite books, Deerskin by Robin McKinley. Where again, a young woman’s journey away from violence is at the heart of the telling.
I didn’t even mind the multiple perspectives of the characters that switched between chapters, because Lu used them appropriately so that the plot was advanced (in an unsuspecting twist) with each different voice we heard. I loved the intrigue behind the Dagger Society, particularly the hint that there could be more groups of Malfettos. In fact, I got the feeling that this book was really setting the stage for more world building and a further complicated plot line in the next installment, to which I say, go ahead and raise hell, Adelina! I’ve got your back, girl!