I absolutely loved Marie Lu’s first series, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion), and I am thrilled to say that I adored this second series just as much. The two series are very different – set in completely different worlds, with very different protagonists and tones – but are equally compelling, unpredictable and powerful.
If you haven’t read one or both of these series yet, you definitely should! Marie has a wonderful imagination and addictive writing-style. Her books are consistently amazing: I have thoroughly enjoyed all six of them. I cannot wait for her new novel Warcross to come out in October of this year!
This post contains a short review for each book in The Young Elites series, but I’ve avoided spoilers and given an overall flavour of each book in the series and what I loved so much about them. The order of the series is: The Young Elites –> The Rose Society –> The Midnight Star. I would rate these books 4.5 stars, 5 stars, and 4 stars respectively.
The Young Elites
Here’s the Goodreads synopsis for the first book in the series:
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.
The Young Elites is a strong and engaging opening to the series. It introduces us to our protagonist and anti-heroine Adelina, a girl who is both endangered and dangerous, who has been wronged and is ready to wrong others. She’s trying to fight the darkness within her but it threatens to overwhelm her. Adelina has suffered the blood fever disease, like many others, and it has not only marked her physically but has given her a great and dark power to work illusions. Sufferers or ‘malfettos’ like her are known as Young Elites and are in constant danger. They are pursued by the deadly Inquisition, which is led by the ruthless and righteous Teren. However, they are also sought by their fellow Elites, who have started to build up societies in which those with powers and markings can train, strengthen their talents and resist the Inquisition.
Adelina is an unusual main character, one who blurs the lines between heroine and villain, between right and wrong, between justice and vengeance. She’s sometimes dark and unnerving – increasingly so as the series continues – but there is enough light and goodness in her and reason for her actions to make her likeable. We can empathize with her because of her back-story, and we witness all her emotions and experiences first-hand. She’s a unique character, one who is full of surprises, full of strength, and who has a great capacity both to love and to hate.
Adelina is joined by a wonderful cast of characters. There’s Raffaele, the beautiful and gentle courtesan; Enzo, the fierce, valiant and alluring leader of the Daggers; Violetta, Adelina’s sweet sister; Teren, the determined, obsessive and unrelenting Inquisition leader; Dante, a lurking and suspicious presence within the Daggers, and Gemma, kind, friendly and welcoming. Each character is original, complex and vividly portrayed. I loved the friendships between Gemma and Adelina and between Adelina and Raffaele. I also loved the romance that took place in the novel – I thought there was the perfect amount of romance for the story-line and the characters had excellent chemistry.
The Young Elites has brilliant world-building. It’s fascinating to learn about the society’s customs and deities. The plot is great, too. The novel is fast-paced, thrilling, and full of twists and turns. It’s the kind of book you race through. There’s constant tension and threat throughout. You can never guess what is going to happen next. Everything comes to a heart-pounding, emotional and breath-taking crescendo at the end: it’s wonderfully executed and will have you desperate for the next book: luckily, as of October 2016, all the books in the series are already out so there is no wait in between!
The Rose Society
The Rose Society is a phenomenal sequel – I enjoyed it even more than I did the first novel in the series (in fact, it’s probably my favourite book of the three). It’s epic and enthralling and unputdownable from the first page to the last. I loved the opening:
“Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, so she destroyed them all.”
This sequel introduces one of my all-time favourite characters, Magiano. Legendary and revered among the Elites, his power is the ability to imitate others’ powers. Cheerful (most of the time), charming and confident, this thief brings a lot of light and humour to the novel to balance Adelina’s increasing vengefulness, darkness and inability to control her visions. He bursts to life from his first scene and I loved his distinctive qualities: calling everyone ‘my love’, gathering ornate items, and strumming musical notes.
The introduction of Magiano was one of my favourite things about the novel. My other favourite things were, firstly, Adelina’s unpredictable, unstable nature, which made for constant surprises, and, secondly, the massive twist that came right at the novel’s end. I don’t want to give any details or spoilers, but I will say that I absolutely did not see it coming. It’s a jaw-dropping revelation and one that changes everything. The very last lines of the novel, too, are beautifully and breath-takingly poignant.
The Midnight Star
Marie Lu writes the best finales. The ending of Champion gave me a very lengthy book hangover. I sob whenever I reread it, and I know it’s an ending I will never forget. I feel the same way about the ending and Epilogue of The Midnight Star. It’s satisfying, epic and extremely emotionally powerful – heart-aching, in fact. It’s written absolutely beautifully and I loved the way it linked to the novel’s title.
This is a fitting ending to a fantastic series. It keeps you right on the edge of your toes throughout because Adelina’s life is constantly endangered. Everything comes together in this novel – the plot and the characters’ quest links right back to the very beginning and the test Adelina faced when joining the Daggers. I always love it when series do that – when they have been all planned out in advance. The only thing I would say, and I’ve seen other reviews stating the same thing, is that I would have liked it to have been longer – not just because I never want good series to end, but because I just felt things could have been stretched out more and that there was room for more scenes and more dialogue towards the end. The plot was actually slightly too fast-paced for me this time. However, I still really enjoyed it.
If you have not read this series, please do give it a go! I would definitely recommend it!