Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: "The Young Elites" by Marie Lu

With her Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, and Champion), Marie Lu proved she was a talented writer with the ability to create an entirely different world, memorable characters, and terrific action. The Young Elites, the first book in her newest series, proved that the first three books weren't a fluke—again, she has created a wholly different world as well as brand new characters who will be fascinating to watch develop.

Adelina Amouteru is a 16-year-old growing up in the 1300s in the city of Dalia, located on an island called Kenettra. A number of years ago, Kenettra, as well as many neighboring lands, was affected by a massive epidemic of blood fever, which killed any adults infected and left children with lifelong effects.

"You could always tell who was infected—strange, mottled patterns showed up on our skin, our hair and lashes flitted from one color to another, and pink, blood-tinged tears ran from our eyes."

Adelina lost one of her eyes to the fever, and a doctor removed it with a red-hot knife and a pair of burning tongs, leaving her permanently scarred. Her hair and eyelashes also turned silver. Her father is embarrassed that his older daughter is a malfetto, an abomination that has ruined his chance at fortune or good standing in society. Her younger sister, Violetta, was spared by the fever, and grows ever more beautiful every day, men from all over the land come to seek her hand in marriage, while barely looking Adelina's way. This causes her father to lavish attention on Violetta while being emotionally and sometimes physically abusive to Adelina.

Malfettos are blamed for all that is wrong with society, and soldiers acting in the name of the king ruthlessly destroy any they find. But some malfettos are rumored to have more than simply physical manifestations left from the fever—some purportedly have mysterious and powerful abilities. They remain hidden in society, but are known as the Young Elites. A secret society of the Young Elites, called the Daggers, are bent on returning to power the rightful heir to the throne, Enzo Valenciano, who was banned from the throne because he, too, is a malfetto.

One frantic night Adelina realizes that she, too, possesses these special gifts which make her dangerously powerful. When she is quickly arrested by Inquisition forces, and sentenced to death for her crime, the Daggers rescue her and hope to recruit her to their side. But her powers are unlike any they've ever seen—and they aren't sure whether she can be trained to control them, or if she's more dangerous to their cause. And when the leader of the Inquisition, Teren Santoro, takes Violetta prisoner, he forces Adelina to decide just who she should consider her allies. Either way, she faces dangerous, potentially deadly consequences.

Although it took a little bit of time to get acclimated to who was who in the book, I really enjoyed the start of this new series. Once again, Lu has created complex characters (and Adelina may be more complex than any she has created before) that keep you guessing, and the new world she has built is so vivid, but it isn't overburdened with detail. I also love how her characters are diverse in their sexuality in a matter-of-fact way, and it's not an issue.

I found the Daggers to be a fascinating group of people, and I look forward to seeing how Lu will allow them to develop in future books. And I can't even guess where the next book will go, since the epilogue brought in a new group of characters which should be an interesting mix. All in all, this is another great read from Marie Lu, and I can't wait until the second book in this series comes out next year. (Can I be a little bit obsessed already?)

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