Sometimes the story isn’t about the hero.
Sometimes, it’s about the villain.
Ten years ago, a curious fever swept the land, killing all affected adults and leaving a handful of the affected youth marked. These marked youth were dismissed by society and shunned. But the fever left some of the marked children with something else: incredible abilities to manipulate the energy around them: the Young Elites.
Adelina Amouteru is one of these marked youth, but despite her father’s cruel attempts to coax it out of her, she does not seem to have any special abilities. That is, until she finally runs away from home.
Adelina finds herself amidst the Dagger Society, a group of Young Elites determined to end the prejudice towards them and to take control of the throne. The Daggers offer to train her in exchange for her service to the Society. For once, Adelina is part of a group of people like her, but the trust between her and the Daggers is tenuous. As she comes into her power, two things are clear: She may have the greatest power of them all, and she is not to be crossed.
After picking up Lu’s Legend trilogy last year, I really wanted to get my hands on this series. Lu proves that her writing prowess in the dystopian genre extends to fantasy with The Young Elites.
Lu’s plot is the classic “liar revealed” story with a twist: there is no forgiveness or redemption. Adelina is driven by two goals: to be accepted and to have power. It’s because these two ideas are so opposite one another that the plot is so interesting. At times, it’s hard to tell whether Adelina’s actions are for one goal or for the other.
The characters are also well conceived. Teren, Enzo, Rafaele and the Daggers are all well developed and have memorable personalities. Rafaele is probably my favourite out of the bunch (likely by design, Lu wrote him to be attractive after all). But it’s easy to see that all the characters struggle between doing what is right for humanity and what they personally want.
But the shining star is Adelina herself. Lu has a lot of control when writing about her protagonist, balancing a young person trying to find themself and a crazy person who lusts for power. I can see it very easily swinging to the latter, but I find myself sympathizing for her as much as I want to yell at her for making stupid and selfish decisions.
As usual, Lu’s world building is spot on, with an integrated magic system and a well developed society. I like the defined styles and culture of the countries in Lu’s universe.
I also like how Adelina’s POV is the only one in first person. It threw me off a little at first, but it really emphasizes that this is her story, not one of a hero.
My one complaint was that the romance was sort of weak. That may be because I didn’t really like the idea of Enzo and Adelina together. However, this is not because they have bad chemistry, but because they are both too dark. It’s like if Voldemort and Bellatrix actually got together.
Recommendation: Buy. If you’re looking for a fantasy story about the villain, definitely try The Young Elites.