A Unique, Challenging, and Rousing Fantasy
The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites (Book 1)
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly
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.
As you can tell from that loooong publisher synopsis, The Young Elites is a complicated novel that, like the synopsis, at times seems bent on excess. Take the world-building, for instance. Right from page one, readers are challenged to keep up with the author. First, we’re confronted by a stream of unfamiliar, Italian-sounding names and places, and are thrust with little prologue into the main character’s time and predicament. Then we find that nearly every chapter is preceded by a heading in which tumble our way numerous book titles and authors, as well as references to random events in this new world’s history. While their intent is to supplement the primary world-building and occasionally foreshadow the plot, they provide a confusing rush of tangential information that interrupts the flow of the story and leaves the unwary gasping. It’s enough to keep up with the character backstories that pop up in most of the early chapters (primarily through memories or dreams), the developing relationships, and the changing narrative viewpoints, without the distraction of this new and seldom significant information. At one point I became frustrated (by the continued use of the dream device, in particular), and was certain I’d never feel comfortable in this world or among its characters.
But about halfway through the novel, when the world is finally and thoroughly constructed, and the characters firmly anchored in it, the plot is allowed to take center stage. The reader’s patience and hard work is well-rewarded by an intriguing, unpredictable storyline, a varied cast of characters — though here again, keeping up with the ‘powers’ of each malfetto is daunting — and a multi-layered protagonist, Adelina, who wrestles with questions of morality, fluctuating between right and wrong simply because hers is a world where good and evil are no longer clearly delineated. Add in a few major surprises, a budding but difficult romance, and all the action scenes you could possibly want, and you have a satisfying and invigorating read.
— Jennifer Michelle
4 of 5 Hearts. A Unique, Challenging, and Rousing Fantasy.
In its early chapters, The Young Elites demands a more than usual amount of concentration and dedication. The pages turn slowly, as the reader is confronted by what feels like a surfeit of information. By its mid-point, however, the book’s supposed excesses no longer seem like such, and instead serve as a sturdy foundation on which is built a strong, absorbing plot with a diverse and engaging team of medieval-era super heroes.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Penguin Young Readers Group, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”