The Young Elites by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Despite the fact that I found the main character disagreeable – the premise was enjoyable. Initially, Adelina is very dark and unrelatable. She relishes pain and fear, as a result, I don’t have sympathy for her character. Even though her father treated her abysmally her entire life, that treatment only seemed to nurture the darkness inside her. It did not create it. The darkness is all her own.
The only time I truly felt her humanity was when she was with the kind Gemma. It is in those moments she allows herself to feel. even concern for her sister seems forced, like familial obligation rather than a love. Her concern is usually accompanied with ill thoughts and blackened memories towards her sister.
Raffaele and Gemma are the most human of the characters and more likeable than the rest. Dante’s main role is to antagonize. Enzo’s role is to function as a romantic interest and future savior of the realm. The Windwalker, Lucent, and the Architect, Michel, serve more as background pieces than fully developed characters. Obviously, this is an over=simplification of their roles but it helps to illustrate the weaknesses in character development in the book. Over the course of the novel, the reader is given small glimpses into the character or their backstory but it is insufficient as these are her main and supporting characters for which the book is titled. The Young Elites.
The world the author builds draws you in with its unique holidays, three moons, elegant dress and giant rays that swim through the sky. The elaborate and opulent headquarters (Fortunata Court) of the Dagger Society rise in your mind surrounded by towers, merchants and Inquisitors. Stylistically, the world is reminiscent of Renaissance Italy with its gondolas, dress and canals that might draw you in like the world of Assassin’s Creed.
During the course of the novel, we watch as Adelina trains her abilities and before long she joins the Daggers on a mission. She also seems to adopt more humanity as the book progresses which makes her a slightly more appealing character – but she is unable to hold onto that ray of light for long before succumbing to the festering darkness within. (Leaving the reader just as unsympathetic as before.)
She would be more likeable if she didn’t welcome that darkness and unless her character arc leads her to light and love, changing her affinities, I have no emotional stake in her well-being. I understand that the author wants to write a dark character, but I personally just don’t have an emotional stake in the outcome of this book because I don’t particularly identify with any of her characters. Without redeeming qualities, you cannot justify or form an attachment to the character (especially because she is the main character). I’m sure others would like her character, and she is certainly an interesting character, but I prefer a lead who is flawed but inherently good. Perhaps an anti-hero but not the villain.
Growing up unloved, she quickly falls in with the Daggers but questions their motivation and is willing to betray them with the slightest provocation. In her mind, no one could possibly just be kind. They must have an agenda or be using her in some fashion. She is easily manipulated and swayed. Whether she follows through with her vengeance, betrays or redeems is something you must discover by reading the book yourself. Will Adelina redeems herself or succumb to the darkness?
I’m intrigued by the premise and the characters, despite the critical parts of my review. As such, I look forward to seeing where this series goes. I would definitely recommend it to YA fans who enjoy rich worlds that aren’t modern or people with special abilities.
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