Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sara's Library: The Young Elites

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Book one of The Young Elites trilogy
Putnam 2014
Grade: A

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

What an incredibly long book-jacket summary!  To summarize in one sentence: X-Men meets the Inquisition.  If that doesn't sell you on this book, I'm not sure what will!

I had previously read Ms. Lu's Legend trilogy, so when I first learned she was planning to write a fantasy novel, I immediately added it to my to-read list.  As in her previous work, the chapters are written from one of three perspectives: Adelina, Teren, or Enzo.  The majority of the chapters come from Adelina's perspective, which is somewhat detrimental as it leads to less nuanced characterization for the other players.  While the secondary characters are less well-rounded than I would have liked, I believe the intent here was to present a character study of Adelina, and in that way, the novel is incredibly successful.

Adelina is not meant to be a likable protagonist.  She second guesses everyone's intentions toward her (rightfully so, as we learn!), envies her sister's normality, and has such little control over her powers that she frequently endangers the other Elites.  Her only redeeming quality seems to be her love for her sister, although this is used against her throughout the first installment.  But it is precisely because she is a flawed character that The Young Elites is such a compelling read.  We've already read about the perfect girl-next-door type dozens of times, so it's refreshing to read about a girl with so much self-doubt that it actually fuels her power.

X-Men fans will likely notice character similarities here.  Enzo as Magneto, Raffaele as Xavier, Teren as Jason Stryker, and Adelina as Mystique (especially as depicted in the recent films).  Even with these similarities in mind, the ending came as a surprise for me.  I applaud the book for that alone, as it's usually so easy to predict the outcome in YA novels.

I highly recommend this book to any fans of fantasy and cannot wait for The Rose Society to be released!

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