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.
I’m not sure what it is with YA novels and insufferably edgy yet non-commital female leads. But whatever that nonsense is, Adelina Amouteru takes that squid-inked Vantablack fucking cake. I spent about half the time reading this wishing she’d actually commit to her moping and kill someone already and half the time wondering why I ever thought this book was a good idea. Unfortunately, this was my ‘2nd chance’ square books for the 2019 r/Fantasy bingo so DNF wasn’t even an option.
Let’s talk characters first. Or more specifically, character. Adelina fucking Amouteru. I’m a huge sucker for a morally gray lead. Bonus points if the author commits and makes the character a proper villain. That’s the good shit. As such, reading the summary of The Young Elites, I was hyped because all the ingredients for a proper villain led book were there. Except some fuck-up happened in the baking process and instead of getting that proper villain lead, I got a whiny little girl trying desperately to convince anyone who’d listen to her that she’s ‘so evil’ and ‘has such darkness’ without ever actually doing shit? Sure, she kills her dad at the beginning of the book but also he was abusive as hell. Understandable. But she then spends the REST OF THE GODDAMN BOOK monologing on and on and on about this great vengeful darkness inside of her that’s going to destroy everything without ever killing another person or doing something remotely ‘bad’ or ‘dark’. Every couple pages. For the fucking entire book. At last, about 60% of the book later, she finally covers up some bodies with her illusion magic. That someone else had killed. Girl.
Perhaps the worst part of her character is that she really doesn’t undergo that much character development. In the beginning, she’s a girl who’s dark and edgy and accidentally killed her dad. By the end, she’s a girl who’s dark and edgy and deliberately killed some name characters and a couple guards. So she’s gone from accidentally killing a person to intentionally killing a person. Usually, this is an important factor in character
traumatization development. But with Adelina, because she’s spent the entire book trying to convince the reader she’s a dark and edgy person, her only visible development is going from edgy to slightly edgier. Adelina actually manages to top my list of most detested female MCs, which is a fairly impressive feat given that she managed to trump Feyre from the Court of X and Y series. At least Feyre had agency.
Now let’s widen the net a bit. Enzo is the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ love interest with a Dark And Mysterious Past. He’s also the teenaged leader of the Dagger Society, aka the group of superpowered teenagers Adelina finds herself in. Enzo’s fairly one-dimensional. He wants his crown, he wants the super-powered teenagers to not be discriminated against (understandable), and oh yeah, this new girl’s pretty hot. That’s it. He does his thing, makes out with Adelina, realizes he stuck his dick in crazy and tries to backtrack. Lol at his fate at the end of the book I guess.
Then there’s Teren, the teenaged leader of the Inquisition Axis, the group of non-superpowered people who are racists against the superpowered people. He REALLY hates superpowered people. Oh yeah, he has superpowers. Hypocritical much? Also he’s a dick to Adelina. That’s it, that’s his character.
The rest of the supporting characters are fairly insignificant. The rest of the Dagger Society do superpowered things and probably don’t like Adelina. One of them’s Angry™, one of them’s a glorified male prostitute, and one of them is a highborn lady who just has large wild animals around her that no one in the nobility circles finds suspicious. Then there’s Adelina’s sister, the girl who spent her entire childhood watching Adelina get abused by their dad and did fuck all. Fuck you Violetta.
Plot wise, the book’s pretty straightforward. Group of six teenagers with superpowers are going to take down the racist monarchal society that discriminates against superpowered teenagers and install their leader who isn’t racist against superpowered teenagers. It doesn’t go as planned. I do have to commend Lu for her prose. The writing flows extremely well and I quite liked the setting descriptions for the different parts of fantasy-Venice they were in. That flow has the nice side-effect of allowing me to read (and thus finish) it faster.
The only likable part of this book for me was the worldbuilding. A deadly illness (how appropriate) sweeps through the nation, killing a lot of people and leaving the children with strange markings and superpowers. Which the rest of the nation decides to discriminate against. I admit, I like superpowers. It’s one of the reasons I first picked this book up. I think the concept is really interested and Lu definitely managed to pull in some creative ones. If only the MC was more palatable.
I’ll end this review by saying that I read about half of this book on a plane in 2017, then got tired and decided to sleep instead. Three years later and crunched for time, I only read the half I hadn’t read this March and I don’t think I was any worse off. Take from that what you will, but for me, that’s probably a bad sign. Overall, I rate this book a 2/5.
r/Fantasy 2020 Bingo Squares
- Romantic Fantasy (if you could call whatever happened a romance)
- Novel Featuring Politics
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers