One recurring feature of my blog will be reviews of a variety of books, and the honor of the first review goes to none other than Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. One of my favorite YA series of all time is Lu’s Legend series (if you haven’t read this yet and enjoy YA lit in any fashion, stop what you’re doing, reevaluate your life, and pick it up), so I was excited to start Lu’s new series. In brief, I was not disappointed. The writing is vivid and fast paced, always enticing you to read on, and the world is rich and rewarding as you delve further and further in.
The Young Elites follows Adelina, a malfetto—those left scarred by a fever that ravaged the land a decade earlier—who has just discovered that the fever also instilled in her magical powers that are just now awakening. And she is not alone. Other Elites, as they are called, have developed powerful abilities, some forming the Dagger Society to band together to challenge the kingdom’s decree against malfettos. Adelina soon finds herself among them, though she’s uncertain whether she can trust them enough to call herself one of their own. But there are other forces at work, forces that pit her newfound loyalties against her old. She’s left with nothing but painful options, made all the more challenging by the darkness gathering within her.
Traces of what I enjoyed about Lu’s first series show up in this one. Just as with Legend, The Young Elites alternates among several characters’ perspectives to give a more global view of the novel’s conflict and also a fuller view of its protagonist. Just as with Legend, the novel features a strong, compelling female protagonist who possesses agency and who, while she does become entranced by a man, does not let the whole of herself become subsumed by her feelings for that man. I also enjoyed how Lu precedes each chapter with a quote from a source from within the world of the novel, adding texture to the culture and ideology of this world (something I do in The Nephilim, so of course I'm partial).
Mostly, though, I enjoyed the novel because Adelina was, refreshingly, an anti-hero. She is not simply a character with faults—a character who, despite her failures, is defined by her good heart. She is someone who thrives on the brooding darkness within her. She thrills in it, draws strength from it. Her magical alignment centers on the threads of fear, passion, curiosity, and fury that course through her and those around her. Her upbringing broke certain parts of her, crippling her emotionally so that these darker forces surface in her suddenly, and with violence. And she’ll need that darker strength to navigate this world that pits so much against her, that demands so much.
I’m excited to pick up the sequel, which promises a broader view of this conflict as characters from other nations become involved. Will Adelina find a route back to redemption, or will she entrench herself further in darkness? Will her and her allies’ power be enough to rival that of her enemies old and new?
I look forward to discovering the answer.