Entry 10: The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)

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Author: Marie Lu
Genres [according to Goodreads]:
Adventure
Fiction
Romance
Young Adult > Young Adult Fantasy
Fantasy > Magic
Fantasy > Supernatural
Science Fiction > Dystopia
Published/Publisher:  October 7th 2014/G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 355
Format Read In: Paperback

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My Review [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

“He was referring to a very specific malfettos–a rare handful of children who came out of the blood fever with scars far darker than mine, frightening abilities that don’t belong in this world…No matter the opinion, everyone knew their names. The Reaper. Magiano. The Windwalker. The Alchemist. The Young Elites.” – Adelina Amouteru; The Young Elites, M. Lu

The cover makes me feel like this is a Greek mythology-based book…which it’s not (though there are obvious allusions to mythology in the religion of its world) but I blame the last Percy Jackson novel for having my head equating clouds on book covers with Greek deities permanently. The text in the title is really unique even with the cliche “sword = T” so it makes it look extra-epic over the storm clouds!

I’ve never read the ‘Legend’ series, though it is on my ever-growing to-read list, so I’m walked into the story not being familiar with Marie Lu, who’s really making a name for herself.

Plot

The synopsis really got me excited! Superpowered, scarred rebels set on the backdrop of Renaissance Italy? NICE. I was also excited by the prospect of a plethora of anti-heroes. The language is simple and easy to follow, and Lu does a good job of describing clothing and masks. The story is mostly quiet with some scenes of action here and there that I found was smooth, though sometimes when the Elites attack, because they are clothed, it’s hard to determine who is who if they aren’t using their powers.

The world-building was, well, not really set up as well as I’d hoped. For one thing, Lu didn’t really need to work on the setting as it was a straight copy of Renaissance Italy, like I mentioned before, and there was nothing really added to the setting to make it unique or give a sense that Renaissance Italy was just an inspiration. If you’re going to straight copy a real-life timeline and country, I figure you should just stick with it and not give the setting a new name likes its a new world because it’s not a new world; it just has new elements. I wish there had been more explanation on the religion shared by the people of Kenettra as it plays a major role in their abilities.

I really liked Adelina and Raffaele’s relationship, even if Raffaele was putting on a mask for her. Its pretty evident he grew to care about her as a person rather than her powers and the darkness inside of her. That of course came to a halt at the end and I’m sad to see their tie cut. As per usual, I didn’t care for the main coupling and I really don’t think it was set up well. It seemed to fall under that category of ‘You’re Hot, I’m Hot, We Are Meant To Be’ which would be easily ignore-able if it was just that but unfortunately it also falls under the category of ‘You Look Like A Lost Love, So You’ll Never Be Sure If I Love You Or The Person You Remind Me Of’ which really bothers for the sole reason that I hate it when characters are set up to be like sloppy seconds, even if it’s later revealed that “oh no, I really love you and now I’m totally over the person who remind me of”.

It just doesn’t feel like the best base to start a romance. Not to mention how Enzo purposefully triggered Adelina to experience intense fear just to drag her powers out like come on, man! I get her powers are based in fear but he literally forces her to remember the one time she genuinely faced death.

The ending really surprised me. It’s not everyday authors actively kill of one of their main characters–and not only that but one side of the main pairing–and the villains win in a spectacular way. That gave me some serious Game of Thrones feelings. Unless Enzo is resurrected which I get the sense that, that’s where we’re headed with the mention of a malfetto who can resurrect people and the introduction of Maeve at the end. I just hope it goes to sh*t and we can just live with his death. It helped to move the story and Adelina’s character forward so please, let’s not go back on it.

Overall, I found the story to be…okay. Nothing original about it, but it was enjoyable as a popcorn-book (like a popcorn-movie; entertaining but nothing deep or unique about it.) Even the villain’s objective was simple, though there was the underlining complexity that the villain, Teren, has to deal with the hatred he harbours for himself for being a malfetto and hunting other malfettos.

Characters

Adelina Amouteru (a.k.a. The White Wolf) is our heroine and pretty much set-up to be an anti-hero right out of the gate, since her powers are elevated by fear, anger and hatred. She was tormented for years by her abusive father who was ashamed of his heavily scarred daughter and wanted to drag any powers she kept hidden in her through threats, physical violence and manipulation. Nothing worked, however, and she was finally subjected to being sold to a man to be a mistress. Not accepting this, she ran off, only to be caught by her father who forcibly tries to drag her home. This is when her powers, emerging from her own fear and hatred and then from her father’s fear, come out. She is able to conjure illusions and make people feel, hear and see things that aren’t there, and she uses this ability to earnestly kill her father. She is sent to be executed and is rescued by Enzo who gives her an ultimatum: either join the Dagger Society or be abandoned to the mercy of soldiers hunting her down.

As a character, I liked Adelina’s personality for the most part and was pleasantly surprised to see her, and her Tamouran people, modeled after Muslim Arabs. Despite her agency being removed by her father, then the Dagger Society and then by Teren, she seems to hold her own and keep her sanity from spilling out. I liked that her tether was her love for her sister which is the one bright spot left in her heart. I wish we’d seen more of her powers but I can understand leaving that till the later books. It was shocking to see just how strong and how deadly she and her powers can be when she kills Dante without mercy, but it wasn’t a surprising turn of events–you could get the sense that she was heading into that sort of direction pretty early on when she killed her father (in his case, her powers had only scared the horses into killing him; in Dante’s case, her actual powers led to his death). However, I feel like she hesitated a lot, swinging from guilt for betraying to Dagger Society to not caring because the Elites were manipulating her, too. I wish she could have stayed consistent in her beliefs, and then started changing her mind later on.

I didn’t really like the implication that her powers stemming from and being electrified by fear–anyone’s fear–and hatred was just because that’s the way she is as a person, but really should be due to the abuse she felt at the hands of her father morphing what ‘power’ means to her. Fear and hatred are the two facets of emotions she was used to for most of her life. This didn’t seem to come to any character’s mind and it bugs me to no end.

Enzo Valenciano (a.k.a. The Reaper) is the love interest, a malfetto prince and the rightful heir to the throne of Kenettra, but due to the influence of his sister, the Queen, he is made to appear unfit for the throne due to his scars. He is also the leader of the Dagger Society, the group of malfettos with powers who plan to remove the king and usher in an era of acceptance of malfettos. This is a really ruthless character, another anti-hero for sure, which I could enjoy though certainly not like–these aren’t, for the most part, supposed to be likable characters and I can appreciate that. He is single-minded, driven only to reclaim his throne, use anyone and everyone to accomplish this, and destroy anyone and everyone that gets in his way–that includes superpowdered malfettos brought into the Dagger Society but who cannot control their powers. He can conjure fire and is highly skilled in combat. But he does seem to have a fiercely protective side when it comes to the other members of the Dagger Society, especially Raffaele, and a mournful side at the lose of his friendship with Teren, two facets that help to round out his character. I just couldn’t take any “passion” he shared with Adelina seriously.

Then there’s beautiful Raffaele Laurent Bessette (a.k.a. The Messenger) whom I can’t help but adore? Like?? I was so charmed by this character, which kind of has me contradicting what I said before about unlikable characters; and I mean he is unlikable, but he grows in a better direction compared to every other character by the end. It’s just that his damn alluring powers can stretch past the pages so well! He is a consort, sold into the business by his family, who works at the brothel–er, “pleasure court”–which secretly acts as the headquarters for the Dagger Society. His ability is that he can sense other Elites in the area, and he uses this power to help Enzo gather them. He also uses the ability to get people to swoon over him and earn their trust quickly. Despite his flirty and warm exterior, he is quick to let Enzo knows he feels that Adelina’s powers are too dangerous for someone with so much darkness in her heart and doesn’t make it a secret that he thinks they should kill her. So he’s certainly not shy and is capable of doing or saying what needs to be done. But like I hinted, he does grow into appreciating and liking Adelina for who she is and grows to have faith in her control of her powers. Of course, this doesn’t last to the end of the book, when Enzo dies and he takes the leadership position of the Dagger Society, and his first order of business is to leave Adeline to her sister, no longer being able to trust her strength or trust that she hadn’t played a hand in Enzo’s death like she played a hand in Dante’s.

There’s not much to say about Teren Santoro other than I can’t sugar-coat the fact that his character was ripped right from Silas’s character from Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’: albino, practices self-flagellation to punish himself for being a sin, deeply devoted to one person’s will, never makes a choice or takes an opinion that is completely his own. Overall, a pretty lousy villain. Hopefully we’ve got a better one coming along (perhaps  Queen Giulietta, hopefully?).

Violetta Amouteru is Adelina’s little sister, and someone who was hit by the blood fever but didn’t retain any scars. Thus, she was the apple of their father’s eye, beloved and beautiful and sweet and desired by many, all while Adelina faced scrutiny and hatred. But she also deeply loves her sister and does everything in her power to protect her. And I mean that literally. We find out 3/4 of the way into the book, after Violetta is used as a bargaining chip by Teren against Adelina so Adelina can betray the Dagger Society, that despite having no scars, Violetta is an Elite with the power to mute every other Elite power. She uses this ability to shunt Adelina’s powers so that she doesn’t face even more hatred and so that their father doesn’t sell her off. This definitely rattles Adelina but after Violetta agrees not to ever use her power to Adelina again, the sister’s bond doesn’t seem to shake all that much. I’m really excited to see more of her! It’s always nice to see feminine characters who kick-ass rather than the same sword-wielding, I’m-not-like-other-girls Strong Female Characters(TM). Adelina is the same.

It’s hard for me to really characterize the other Elites, which already says a lot about their lack of influence in the novel. Gemma Salvatore (a.k.a., The Star Thief) is a kind malfetto, a daughter of a rich nobleman, who can control animals. She’s an unexpected foil to Adelina as, unlike Adelina, Gemma’s father loves her deeply despite her scars. Her relationship with Adelina was one I’d hoped Lu would have spent more time on to appear more genuine but their friendship pretty much fell flat to me. Dante (a.k.a. The Spider) is a former blacksmith apprentice taken in by Raffaele and Enzo after being wounded in battle and has the ability to see in the darkness. He is a skilled warrior and the one Elite who constantly retains distrust and hatred towards Adelina, though I don’t feel like it’s well-explained or looked into as to why that is. He seems to be written as a brute, and his death didn’t really rattle me at all other than how it went on to affect Adelina and her relationship with the other Elites. Michel (a.k.a. The Architect) was the newest recruit before Adelina and currently a master painter at the University. His ability is to teleport objects from one place to another, and he helps Adelina control her powers to build elaborate and complex illusions. We hardly hear him talk and I’d hoped to see some scenes between them and glimpse into his lessons but Lu glosses over this, unfortunately. Lucent (a.k.a. The Windwalker) is a malfetto from Beldain, a country across the sea from Kenettra, with the power to manipulate wind and fly. We know pretty much the least about her as she doesn’t seem to significantly engage with any of the characters, let alone Adelina. But this seems to be compensated by the end of the book, after we learn of Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan, the Queen of Beldain and Lucent’s former lover, after Lucent sends her a letter informing her of Enzo’s death. So I’m sure we’ll get to know more about her and her homeland.

Negatives

Most of the time I find that books that don’t pace well should have been much shorter; what an author says in 500+ pages could very easily be reduced to around 200-300 pages without unnecessary fluff that added nothing to the plot. In the case of this book, my problem with it is the exact opposite; what Lu says in ~350 pages, she should have tried to say in 500+. Okay maybe not that many more pages, but I certainly feel like the story would have benefited from going more into depth about her relationship with each Elite and not just Enzo and Raffaele, especially when the kicker was that at the end of the novel, the Elites abandon Adelina. It didn’t resonate with me at all, even though it’s Raffaele that instigates it. I just couldn’t see the benefit of her relationship with the Elites and so, I could only accept their abandonment at face-value and not emotionally. More elaboration on their faith and a better villain would also be highly appreciated.

What to Look Forward to

The second and third book are out, and I definitely will try to get my hands on them to review. I hope to see more interactions between Adelina and her sister! Now that we know Violetta is no wilting, powerless flower, the sister’s relationship needs to be reinvented. Adelina no longer has to feel like she needs to protect her sister, and thus, part of her superiority complex can’t reach to Violetta and Violetta can no longer even attempt to protect Adelina by muting her powers as she swore to Adelina she wouldn’t do anything to take away that part of Adelina’s agency. So they’re going to have to deal with each other’s new powers and new personalities. I’m also excited to see what new members will form their own Dagger Society, and I can only hope their relationships will be more fleshed out than Adelina’s relationship with the Dagger Society Elites. I’m also quite excited to see more of Queen Giulietta. We basically get nothing about her for this book other than the fact that she successfully seduced Teren to do her bidding and to hunt down malfettos. But there’s definitely more there to explore; she was unflinching in the murder of her awful husband and her hatred for malfettos sinks deep enough that she shuns her own brother. Hopefully we can look at that more. I’m also excited to see how the land of Beldain will play a role against the new ruling in Kenettra.

I heard the movie rights for this book has been bought by Fox and Temple Hill Entertainment. Here’s hoping this series won’t be hit with any form of white-washing.

My Rating: 3/5

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Entry 10: The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)

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