The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Expected Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Length: 368 pages
Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Penguin’s First to Read program
Format Read In: E-ARC
View at the Traffic light:
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.
The Young Elites is a fast-paced YA high fantasy that both plays with a lot of recognizable fantasy standards and also often subverts them. Unlike many fantasy heroines, Adelina doesn’t start off as an uncertain main character who learns a little along the way and grows into self-confidence. While Adelina learns and grows, as all good main characters should, her character growth breaks outside the norm.
See, Adelina is a dark and tortured character from the beginning, but unlike many, she knows it. She might still have some learning to do about her powers and how they manifest and what she’s capable of, but from a personality standpoint, she knows exactly who she is. Adelina is cunning and cut-throat, and she’s not about to let anything stand in her way–which is not to say she’s completely closed off to others. While Adelina is guarded, she will sometimes let other people in. She cares deeply about her sister and that plays out in the story over and over again, but Adelina has no qualms about who she is. She’s not a nice person, and she knows it, and I kind of love her for it.
I also really thought The Young Elites was well-paced and well-plotted. It was a little confusing to be thrown into the world at first, but Lu did a good job of introducing the reader and not relying on info-dumps for the most part(though I did feel like there was a little of this at the beginning). It doesn’t take long for Adelina to learn she is a Young Elite and what she can do–the whole self-discovery part of the plot happens extremely quickly in this one, and it works. It leaves more time for scheming and blackmail and growth.
At first the world in The Young Elites seems rather simple. There’s a blood fever, and it can have side effects of oh yeah, giving children who survive it, often with physical disfigurations, special powers. I was willing to go with this premise, though I had questions. Over time, however, Lu really builds up the world around Adelina and shows that this is a complex world filled with complex characters.
There are a few other characters that The Young Elites closely follows. I’m not going to get too much into talking about them specifically, but I wanted to point out that for characters who sometimes don’t get much page time, they’re remarkably well-developed. A few of them do get some significant chunks of the text, but I was still amazed at just how real they felt and how soon.
However, those characters also lead to my only real complaint with The Young Elites. Adelina’s chapters are told in first person, but then the story sometimes cuts to another character–and sections are all done in third person. This sort of point of view device was really irritating as a reader, because every single time there was a character jump it completely jarred me out of the story, and it felt like a way around having to really differ two character’s narrative voices. I would have much preferred it all be in first person or third person, and stay limited to that narration the entire time. It felt shocking to suddenly be pulled out of a first person perspective and into a third person perspective, and then back again. While the story of The Young Elites was excellent, this style of story-telling really hindered my complete enjoyment.
Other than the switching between 1st person and 3rd person point of view, I thought The Young Elites was a really great high fantasy. It’s a story that’s not afraid to embrace the darkness, and I appreciate it for that. Definitely a great series opener. 4/5 cupcakes.