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Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Pre-order the book HERE
Read the first chapter HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Legend

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Marie Lu was born in China but grew up in Texas, she was born in the year which is also the title of George Orwell’s most famous book. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Political science. She has previously worked as a flash & concept art developer at Disney Interactive studios as well as the lead artist designing MMO games for Hollywood Interactive Group, Inc. She also created Fuzz academy, a children's brand featuring a host of school-attending fuzzy animals that emphasize education and environmentalism. Marie Lu has also held the art director position at Online Alchemy, a video game company.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: 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. 

FORMAT/INFO: The Young Elites is 368 pages long divided over thirty-two non-numbered, POV-titled chapters and an epilogue. Narration is in the first-person for Adelina Amouteru and in the third-person via Teren Santoro, Enzo Valenciano, and Raffaele Laurent Bessette. The Young Elites is the first book in the Young Elites series.

October 7, 2014 marks the North American Hardcover and e-book publication of The Young Elites via G.P. Putnam & sons.

ANALYSIS: This is Marie Lu’s sophomore effort after completing her debut dystopian trilogy. However with this series, she’s venturing into secondary world fantasy for the first time. The blurb for this book made me very intrigued and even though my experience with Legend wasn’t an entirely ecstatic one. I still liked her writing style and so with that I dove into this dark story.

In the lands of Kennetra, a little more than twelve years ago, a sickness akin to the plague swept through the lands and claimed many lives. However some of the afflicted survived the sickness but were physically and magically altered. They were thought to be cursed and called “Malfetto”. The main protagonist Adelina Amouteru is a sixteen year old who bears some physical scars due to the blood fever. She lost her left eye and has other scars, which mixed with her natural beauty leave her family in a very precarious position. People are ready to marry her sister Violetta but with Adelina, they only want her as a mistress. Complicating her life is her cruel father who might take up someone if they give him enough money for his failing business? After finding out that her father is seriously considering an offer, she decides to save herself by running away.

The tale however begins with Adelina in prison awaiting execution for being a Malfetto and other stuff. She recounts all that has happened which lead to her being in a damp, dank cell. Things however don’t quite go with the executioner’s plan as Adelina is introduced to the other POV characters Teren, Enzo and Raffaele. Enzo and Raffaele are part of the Dagger group who are young elites who are using their skills against the Inquisitors & the royalty who have decreed all malfettos as abominations. Teren is the head inquisitor tasked by the queen to seek out and destroy the daggers. That’s where the plot really kicks in as there are plot twists and betrayals that will tease the reader all the way till the stunning epilogue. 

Firstly for all new readers, I must warn that this is a dark story aimed at the young adult crowd and so it must be judged as a YA book. The story opens with quite a twist and then continues on with its express pace on to its twisted end. The best parts of this story are the characters, beginning with Adelina, Enzo, Rafaella and the rest. Even though Adelina is a person who has been getting the short end of the stick from almost everyone she has met or meets. She is slowly and surely melded in to a person who learns only to hate but kudos to the author she still manages to make her very sympathetic. I enjoyed this aspect of the story as this is the author’s attempt at writing a Darth Vader origin story and she manages to pull it off well.

Going to the rest of the cast, while the focus isn’t quite as strong on them. The author manages to give Enzo, Teren and Rafaelle enough distinct personalities so that don’t seem caricaturish (atleast not entirely). There are some moments of caricaturish behavior but they don’t detract a whole lot. The plot twists also help in making the story an enjoyable one but considering that this a YA story, some of them are predictable. The world-building details a world similar to Italy of the middle ages, however it isn’t quite deep enough. The author passes on details and factoids about the world within but from a world-building junkie POV, this isn’t a grade A effort.

Ultimately as far as YA stories go, this is a fun take on the “dark lord in the making” storyline. Kudos to the author for taking a chance on a different genre and not continuing in the dystopian vein which she started with. This sophomore series effort is a dark, twisted story that showcases the author’s skills and is definitely an upswing from her debut effort. 

CONCLUSION: The Young Elites is a dark tale of a female Darth Vader in the making. Marie Lu weaves a tight plot with some twists that will have the readers turning pages while sympathizing for Adelina inspite of the role she will grow into. An entertaining read that will wow the YA crowd and gain the author newer fans. 


Unknown said...

I've heard a lot of great stuff about The Young Elites. It's my kind of setting: dark and gritty. The protagonist skirts both good and evil.

More of this sort of thing is needed in the YA genre.

—Vic S.—

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