The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Hardcover, 455 pages
Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever, but not unscathed. Her black hair has turned silver, she has a scar over where her left eye used to be, and her own father treats her like an abomination. But there are some fever survivors who have gained superhuman abilities – they are called the Young Elites. Adelina has a very rare and terrifying power which, if not properly mastered, could lead to both her downfall and the downfall of all those who get in her way.
Marie Lu is easily one of my favorite Young Adult authors out there–her Legend series and Warcross (can’t wait for book 2!) are a few of my top sci-fi/dystopian reads. Aside from her awesome stories, she’s just a wonderful person and strong advocate for diversity in young adult literature.
She was my featured author for my YA author project last semester and I was happy to introduce her work to my classmates.
The Young Elites was her only set of works that I have not yet read, though it has been on my TBR for quite a while.
In researching her and her work, I learned that TYE was a very unique storytelling experience for her as it was a “walk on the dark side.” Adelina is inspired by villains–think Darth Vader or Maleficent. Lu went with the idea that we all have a little darkness inside us and so in writing this story, she explored Adelina’s dark side and wrote her in a way that readers would would be afraid of her but also want to empathize with her.
The story alternates between a few different points of view, though most if it is told from Adelina’s. Every character is complex with each one seeming to be either good or bad, but possessing qualities that keep readers from making a concrete decision. Adelina seems like the potential hero of the story in the beginning–she is a malfetto (a fever survivor with some unfortunate physical markings), she seeks refuge from her once-loving-father’s maltreatment, and seems to find her place with a group Young Elites who could train her and be her new family. She has this great power within her that is begging to be unleashed, a power so unique that even the Young Elites are in awe.
But there is always a cost to great power–she must not only swear her loyalty to the Young Elites, but prove her worth. If not, they will kill her.
Enzo, former prince and now the fire-bending leader of the Daggers (a powerful sect of young elites), is seeking to reclaim his throne. He seems like a good guy too and may very well be developing genuine romantic feelings for Adelina. But it is obvious that he wants and needs her power to be tamed in order to meet his own needs.
Random: Has anyone else noticed that “fire” is always associated with power…and insanely “hot” guys? Avatar (Zuko)? Red Queen (Cal)?
Teren is an Inquisitor who is sleeping with the current Queen and wants her husband dead so she can ascend the throne (Enzo is technically disqualified from being King because of his malfetto status). Teren definitely seems like a villain–he forces Adelina to divulge secrets about the Daggers, threatening to kill her sister if she does not comply. But there is a part of me that feels bad for Teren because he is also an Elite, but he truly believes himself to be an abomination and makes it his mission to kill others like him. Also, I feel like his Queeny lover is just using him in more ways that one…
Marie Lu’s writing style is consistent throughout all her novels. There is a brevity to her writing–she employs somewhat short sentences that are straight-forward and not overly descriptive–which contributes to her fast-paced stories and intense action. Though not totally simplistic, her writing is minimalist and effective, creating cinematic ambiences which are both fun and accessible to all readers.
The story, overall, is interesting and there’s a lot of action and social/political intrigue. I really think Adelina is a great character because of her complexity–I am both rooting for her but also angry with her. Her power is defined by her intense attraction to the darkness within, but she also can’t help the way she is.
Verdict: I’m not sure what it is about this story, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as Lu’s sci-fi stories. I do think, though, it’s the characterization that makes this one appealing and exciting. I am dying to find out more about everyone, especially Teren and Adelina. At the very end of this installment, we are introduced to a Princess with some very very interesting powers which could definitely be handy in fixing a problem or two in the next installment.
I went ahead and ordered books 2 and 3, so once they come in, I’ll probably start reading them right away.
*Reading Challenge Update: 12/200