Review The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1) by Marie Lu

Review The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1) by Marie Lu

Synopsis: 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.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommended for: fans of Grisha Trilogy, Red Queen, Shatter Me, The Winner’s Curse, Throne of Glass and Marie Lu.

My thoughts:
This book wrecked me.
The Young Elites is nothing like I expected. Familiar with Marie Lu's style and a die-hard fan of the Legend series, I thought this new story will be along the same lines as Lu's prior works: action-packed, romantic, funny -- you know the drill. Only set in a fantasy world, of course, but nonetheless still cute on a basic level.
That... Was a mistake, because The Young Elites is so far from cute you cannot imagine. Eons away from cute. Zero cuteness.
“A newborn babe takes its first breath / and creates a storm that rains down death.”
You wanna know how TYE truly is? It's edgy. It's dark. Thrilling. Awfully intense. Depression-inducing. Dare I say it, even sexy -- in no way romantic. But, most important of all, it's different and realistic in terms of characters.
For once in my lifetime as a book addict, the book I read follows a heroine that has such great potential, but one that will inevitably step into the darkness. Meet Adelina Amouteru, a 16 year old girl that survived the fever which decimated the population. There were no adult survivors and the children that were affected ended up gaining unusual marks -- and some even dangerous powers. They were called malfettos and hated by most people, being treated as the gods' abominations and associated with bad fortune. That's another aspect I loved: the fact that the "special" ones aren't treated as kings and queens like in most books. They're cursed and killed without a second thought and it all makes for a fresh change in the sea of ever-glorifying the gifted characters (see Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen, Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha Trilogy and Josephine Angelini’s Trial by Fire).
“The gods gave us powers, Adelina, because we are born to rule.”
Back to our main character. Adelina has no apparent powers until she triggers them on a fateful night, trying to escape her father and accidently killing him. She discovers she has the power of illusion and that she could very well be considered a young elite – a malfetto with abilities. In spite of fleeing her father’s estate, she is captured by the Inquisition Axis, the “police force” of this world, and is awaiting to be executed, only to be saved at the last moment (I know, I know) by a group of elites lead by an infamous malfetto – The Reaper. Adelina is taken under their wing and she finally finds out more about her inheritance, her limits and her saviors.
It might seem strange for you, especially if you read this book, but I completely loved Adelina and I sort of… clicked with her. She’s so ambitious and stubborn and I admired her desire for revenge, even if her decisions weren’t always the best. Forced to betray a lot of those close to her heart and abandoned in the end as well, she delves in a world of darkness and self-destruction that could’ve been avoyded if only someone had paid more attention to her insecurities. I actually cried a couple of times for the things she had to go through, because the heartbreak she must’ve constantly felt was saddening to no end.
“Be true to yourself, Violetta once told me when I was trying in vain to win Father over. But that’s something everyone says and no one means. No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.”
She truly cared about The Dagger Society – the bunch of young elites that saved her – and she was able to create wonderful altough fragile friendships with some of them. Unfortunately, the losses, the unimaginable power awaiting at the top of her fingers, the self-loathing and the deep fear of never belonging will take their toll on her. Add those to the overwhelming pull to hate and fear and her dark past when she met no acceptance and you’ll create a lonely, broken, desperate monster. She’s the Darkling’s female version and she’ll become a true and great villain -- her transformation will be amazing to watch (damn, I sound evil).
“It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.
My turn.
“You’re making a mistake,” I say. My voice emerges flat and cold. The voice of someone new. “By not killing me now.”
Moving on from our anti-heroine, the rest of this literary cast is as mesmerizing as Adelina. No one is innocent, no one is honest and everyone has their own dark secrets. Firstly, The Reaper, aka Enzo. I adored him. It might have been for his emo personality and his overall badassery or for the fact that he’s pretty bruised up on the inside, but Enzo’s strong and intense existence won me over. Also, he might as well be the only one that put his faith in Adelina. Plus, he’s quite smoking hot – literally and not literally.
“Don’t cry,” he says, his voice firm. “You are stronger than that.”
Then there’s Rafaelle, a courtesan who became Adelina’s best friend, but who didn’t return the feeling as honestly. I wasn’t exactly his fan, contrary to the fact that his character combined seduction, loyalty (for Enzo) and a cunning mind. He would’ve been perfect if not for his double-faced behaviour that helped Adelina’s downfall from humanity.

Teren Santoro, the most intriguing character of all. Hypocrite, manipulated and a naïve lovesick puppy, he’s the leader of the Inquisition Axis and the one in charge to capture her back. His hate for malfettos of any kind runs deep and he resembles a madman, ready to do whatever it is in his power to bring them all down, especially the young elites. But Teren’s not exactly a villain, nor is he an innocent puppet. He’s a combination of the two and when you find out his background and how he ended up being so hateful, you cannot help pity him. I seriously hope he’ll realise his worth in the next installments.
Adelina’s sister, Violetta, was a big surprise and I was glad she was on Adelina’s side, despite the few big secrets she kept hidden. The rest of The Dagger Society’s members – Gemma, Michel, Lucent, Spider – were interesting and I would’ve liked to know them better. Oh, and I hated the Queen.
One of my friends, upon reading the synopsis, decided TYE is sort of like Shatter Me with a fantasy twist. I guess you could say that. I guess you could also say that it's a bit similar to Shadow & Bone. Or, as I did, you could get The Winner's Curse vibes for no reason at all -- I still don't know what triggered them. What I'm trying to say is that Marie Lu created a story that, if dissected, would probably ring a bell with tons of other famous fantasy books, but if analyzed as a whole, then you cannot help calling it an original idea. It's bits and pieces that trigger a small deja-vu, but the fact that the author managed to put them head to head and develop them with her own brilliant ideas only increased my love for this women's talent.
“When the world was young, the gods and goddesses birthed the angels, Joy and Greed, Beauty and Empathy and Sorrow, Fear and Fury, sparks of humanity. To feel emotion, therefore, to be human, is to be a child of the gods.”
Marie Lu deserves a standing ovation for another gorgeously-written novel. While Legend will always have a special place in my heart, TYE brings a mean game as a last effort to change my 2014's best reads hierarchy -- and I think it succeeded in entering my top 5 from this year. Nothing is flawless, so I do have some minor complaints. Firstly, the world-building isn't exactly the main element of the story and I would've loved to see it a bit extended. On the other hand, I have a feeling my wish will come true in the next installments. Secondly, as much as I'd like to overlook its existence, some predictability was present in the plot. Still, it did not interfere with my overall enjoyment of the book.
Let's talk a bit about the last third of the book that was, hands-down, the best part of the entire novel. It was the climatic ending I was hoping for, full of sacrifice, loss, humanity and power. I honestly didn't think that the author would take such a risky path, but I guess it was a success considering Adelina's villainess only increased -- despite my very very broken heart.
Anyway, I want the sequel. Or maybe I want a re-written version of this one. No no no, I still have hope that Lu will sew my broken heart back. Somehow. If not, I'm gonna curse that freaking epilogue to the moon and back, because that last pages filled my heart with hope and excitement, but weariness as well. Also, I realized that Adelina's story is just a small part of the malfettos' universe and I can't wait to discover it all. *bring on the awesomeness*
This book completely and utterly wrecked me and I'm half excited to continue my journey with Adelina, and half scared to experience the same level of anguish and sadness all over again. All I know is there is still a lot -- like A LOT -- of time until I get my hands on the next volume.
“To love is to be afraid. You are frightened, deathly terrified, that something will happen to those you love. Think of the possibilities. Does your heart clench with each thought? That, my friend, is love. And love enslaves us all, for you cannot have love without fear.”
From the Italian spin on world-building, to the constant rush, overwhelming feelings and original characters, The Young Elites blew away my expectations and delivered a story I honestly fell in love with. Not exactly perfect, but amazing in its own way. It was badass, it was gruesome, it was violent and it was the foundation for a new hit trilogy. My dark self was joyous at such a compelling read. Verdict? I loved it and I recommend you grab it next time you're at a bookstore.


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