Book Review: The Young Elites

4-star

Title: The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

Rating: 4/5 stars

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

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It feels like quite some time since my last young adult fantasy, and THE YOUNG ELITES certainly hits the spot. The book gets it right with its complex cast of characters and steady momentum. Although I wish the world building was more expansive, and that we got to see more facets to Adelina’s characters – it was still a promising start to a new series.

“Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows. Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake. Some worship us, think us children of the gods. But all know us. —Unknown source on the Young Elites”

The-Young-Elites

I felt The Young Elites played with a lot of common YA tropes, and while it successfully subverted some of them with finesse – it also stumbled on others.

The Special Chosen Ones

“I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.”

In The Young Elites, a small portion of the population has been decimated and forever changed by a blood fever several years ago. It left the survivors marked by those special Mary Sue physical traits: hair in strands of sapphire and red, colourful skin disfigurement, impossible eye colours, or in Adelina’s case: a cascade of silver hair. While in other fantasy novels, these traits may be viewed as desirable or physically attractive. In The Young Elites – the cursed are named malfettos. They are marginalised and feared. The fever also gifted a smaller portion of its survivors with special abilities: whether it’s to call upon wind or weave illusions.

“Everyone has darkness inside them, however hidden.”

While the superpowers might sound awesome, our heroine’s manifestation of powers come at a price. Instead of being propheted to be the chosen one, destined to bring down despotic regime and rulers – Adelina’s ability ties her to darkness and chaos. Of all the energy in this world, she has the strongest affinity for fear and fury. Whenever Adelina exercises her powers, she is enhanced by these emotions – while at the same time being consumed by them. She’s certainly no plucky, winsome heroine that stumbles upon her destiny. Adelina’s path is muddled, and while I would hesitate to call her villainous – she’s certainly more complex than your garden variety main character. Yet, Adelina still played at the confused, uncertain and angsty teenager throughout most of the book. I felt she never reached her potential as a character. I hope to see her embrace the darkness more thoroughly in The Rose Society.

Absent Love Triangle

“No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.”

You know how it is with YA paranormal and fantasy, I have come to expect romantic polygons as a part of the deal. Thus, when Adelina is introduced to Enzo with ‘eyes as dark as night’, and Raffaele – who’s beauty is likened to the moon – I braced myself for the love triangle. Mercifully, it never came. Raffaele reminds a confidant to both Enzo and Adelina, and if anything – he has more romantic chemistry with Enzo (I totally ship them *ahem*).

I love Raffaele’s character, who despite being physically weaker and the prettiest of the bunch – still holds a lot of power due to his ability to manipulate emotions. He’s certainly someone I wish to see more of in the sequel. It was so refreshing to see his relationship with Adelina, as not many male-female friendships in YA remains entirely platonic the whole way through.

“How many times have you been called an abomination?” he whispers. “A monster? Worthless?”
Too many times.

On the other hand, I wish we got to see more of Enzo and his fire. I figured Enzo was kept at an emotional distance on purpose, due to later events in the book – but I wish we got to see more of his personal motivations. His character consisted of a lot of smoldering and posturing, and while he got some ‘back story’ in the form of a dead former lover (urgh, don’t you hate that trope?) – we never saw much of his more human side. I felt that I could not connect to the rest of the Dagger Society either, again, this is because they held Adelina at arm’s length. Yet, I love crews and banters and I wanted more!

Complex Familial Relationships

Through the whirlwind, I hear my father’s harsh whisper.
I know who you really are. Who will ever want you, Adelina?

One of my favourite aspect of The Young Elites is the relationship Adelina has with her father and her sister. Her father is a real piece of work, at once sadistic and manipulative – he’s personally responsible for twisting Adelina’s mind. However, I liked that the book wasn’t entirely clear cut with Adelina’s feelings for him – while she despised him for his cruelty, she also yearned for his approval, even long after his death. I also really liked the conflicted feelings Adelina had for her sister, who unlike Adelina was cherished all her life. Their relationships reminded me of the one between Nyx and her sibling in Cruel Beauty.

World Building Falls Short Of Potential

While I enjoyed to pseudo-Italian Renaissance setting we had in The Young Elites, the world building was incredibly shallow. We are told there are numerous nations, yet there’s no distinct marks between them. Actually, I can barely tell you the names of the the different kingdoms, that’s how bland and homogenous they were. On the other hand, the wider conflicts presented between the malfetto and the ‘normal’ citizens made for an interesting larger plot – and I can’t wait to see more of it in the future.


Overall, The Young Elites is a great start to a dark fantasy series. I feel that the world still needs to find its feet and develop both the settings and its characters to their full potential. I will definitely be checking out The Rose Society in the near future.

41 thoughts on “Book Review: The Young Elites

  1. I am so invested in Adelina’s character arc. I need to pick up the sequel. I remember reading that the author wanted to try writing an anti-heroine/Darth Vader type character so Adelina emerged. Ditto crew banter & shipping Rafaelle + Enzo together! I hope Rafaelle receives a requited love someday because he is one of my favourite characters.

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    • Yes, I want to see more of Rafaelle in the next book, he’s my second fave after Adelina. I want happiness for them both but looking at the way things are unfolding, this is probably not possible *pouts*

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  2. I loved Legend trilogy, but haven’t been able to read this. I never read any book with villain as the main character, so I’m really curious how this would turn out. I love how detailed your review is, give me so much insight about the book. Amazing review!

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    • Thank you! I am glad the review gave you some details on the book 🙂 I wouldn’t say Adelina is an outright villain, but her arc is very interesting!

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  3. That’s a real shame about the world building. But maybe you’ll get more in the sequel? Hopefully! Anyways, I’ve been wary of this series because I was unhappy with the way Lu ended her dystopia series. So I’m waiting for the last book to be out so I can decide if I’ll like it or not. I do like the sound of the characters and anytime there’s no love triangle I’m all in.
    Great review, Aentee!

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    • I hope to see more of the worldbuilding and these characters in the sequel as well! Sorry to hear that the Legend series ended on a bad note for you, I personally haven’t read it myself yet!

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  4. How did this one slip through my radar? It sounds interesting and I’ve been on a huge fantasy kick lately so this might curb my appetite. its a shame the world bu9ilding was so shallow. For complex fantasy series I really enjoy the worlds brought out by the author. Was there even a map? (I totally rate a books quality on the map.)

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    • I read this book on Kindle, so I can’t recall a map — even if there was one it would be been very basic, there is basically a kingdom at the top, a kingdom at the bottom, and some island in between by the sounds of it XD Still worth checking out for the characters though!

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  5. HOORAY. I really enjoyed this book, especially how dark it was. So refreshing! I agree with the worldbuilding part – as you mentioned, I felt like they were names pulled out of a hat with not much significance other than to give this facade of depth. But that ending though – I really should pick up The Rose Society. 😀 Great review, as always!

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    • I really loved the ending, excited to see more characters and kingdoms in Rose Society, most reviews have been really positive so fingers crossed!

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    • I heard Rose Society is an improvement on The Young Elite, so I hope you’ll like it when you get around to reading the sequel 😀

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    • I think you would enjoy this one, especially if you’re in the mood for a darker fantasy. Hope you’ll enjoy it 😀

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    • This is my first Marie Lu book, I’ve also read a short story by her in Slasher Girls and Monster Boys! I quite like her writing voice 😀

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  6. Oh god! It seems like I’ve forgot most of the story and I really need to re-read this book before continuing to The Rose Society. Anyways, I’m glad you liked this book. Hope you enjoy the sequel too! Great Review! 😀

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  7. This actually sounds like a really great read! I was kind of hesitant to pick it up because I haven’t read anything by Marie Lu and I’ve heard some mixed things about her Legend trilogy. But The Young Elites sounds amazing! The Renaissance-inspired setting definitely appeals to me, so it’s kind of sad that it wasn’t taken further. But everything else you mentioned, I think it’ll really love! And thank god for the absence of a love triangle!… Raffaele sounds like a really awesome character though!

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  8. I actually bought this one ages ago Aentee and have put off reading it, not sure why because it sounds like one I’d actually really enjoy. I really like the sound of these characters having those strange physical traits being treated as outsiders, in most young adult those differences are always seen as extraordinary and beautiful, so it’s really refreshing to see what happens when society thinks the opposite this time. It’s a shame about the world building, but hopefully book two will focus a little more on that, rather than being so character driven. Awesome review and going to move this one up my list now too ❤

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    • I hope you’ll enjoy this one when you get around to reading it, Kells! The slight changes from the usual narrative in this book was incredibly refreshing.

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  9. I’m so conflicted about reading this one or not. It sounds appealing, yet the overall darkness and despair of this book really is off-putting for me. Plus the plot just doesn’t seem original! The absent love triangle still has me a bit skeptical as does the lacking world-building. There’s so much she could have done with it, especially with the so-called ties to Renaissance and three warring kingdoms as she pitched the book. Nice review ❤

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

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    • I think this is one of those books you absolutely have to be in the mood for. I think if you don’t like darker bend, Adelina might strike as too melodramatic for you XD

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  10. I’d been wanting to read one of Marie Lu’s books, especially since almost everyone has been fawning over The Rose Society lately! It’s lovely to hear that there are complex family relationships but it’s a shame to hear the world building fell short. I felt the same about The Selection. Beauty likened to the moon, though? Raffaele seriously sounds super cute! 😀 Lovely review, Aentee!

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    • I seriously recommend it, Raffaele looks cute and wonderful but will actually not hesitate to eliminate you if you’re troublesome. AKA HES THE BEST.

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