Title: The Rose Society
Author: Marie Lu
Series? Yes, 2 of 3.
out of 5 stars
“Someday, when I am nothing but dust and wind, what tale will they tell about me? Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.”
The Rose Society is one of those rare sequels that shine brighter than its predecessor. In The Young Elite, the foundation of Adelina’s tumultuous path towards villainy is laid down: with betrayal, with insecurities, with corruption. Her story takes a darker turn in this chapter. Supporting characters also get their stories fleshed out in this sequel, adding layers of increasingly compelling motives to the narrative.
One of the things I enjoyed most from The Young Elite was the murky relationship between Adelina and her sister, Violetta. While Adelina is an agent of fury and madness, Violetta tempers her with compassion and steely resolve. While the girls are fiercely protective of one another, their relationship is also fraught with tension – Violetta does not agree with all of Adelina’s choices, Adelina is ever wary of Violetta’s gift to take her powers away. Added onto this is the weight of their shared history, in which Adelina was shunned while Violetta was adored by their father. Together, the pair creates a relationship more compelling than any romance the series could present.
“Fear motivates, more than love or ambition or joy. Fear is more powerful than anything else in the world. I have spent so long yearning for things—for love, for acceptance—that I do not really need. I need nothing except the submission that comes with fear.”
Adelina increasingly spirals toward death, destruction and delirium. In The Rose Society, she’s simultaneously at her best and at her most monstrous. Her relative lack of remorse and ruthlessness is refreshing . Yet her emotional ties to her sisters and former comrades make her internal struggle relatable. Although she’s capable of laying waste to an army or stealing a crown, at the heart of it she remains uncertain and lost. Admittedly, while I hoped to see a bit more conviction in her villainy, Adelina remains half-hearted and detached from her action.
“The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.”
My favourite pretty boy in YA fiction, Raffaele, also gets a chance to shine in this book. I really adore his character archetype, a beautiful courtesan with nerves of steel – and blessedly free of romantic entaglements (though I still totally ship him and Enzo, how could one NOT?) His chapters in The Rose Society shows that Raffaele is not as omnipotent or confident as he was presented in The Young Elites. I found the conflicts he endured in this book just as enthralling as Adelina’s own issues. He’s made up on contradictions and veiled words, I can’t wait to see more of him in the final instalment.
The cast was also fleshed out with an array of diverse characters, each more vivid than their counterpart in The Dagger Society. In The Young Elites, I had issues with the blandness of the supporting characters, whose names I still struggle to remember. However, Magiano, Maeve and Sergio each have their own motivation and ticks, they defy to be forgotten. I enjoyed what these characters brought to the table – especially Maeve as she has risen the stakes immensely through her unnatural gift.
“We are drawn to stories,” he says in a soft voice, “and every scar carries one.”
The Rose Society continues the book’s theme of class divide between the malfettos and regular citizens, adding in an element of political machinations. We also get to see the flipside, in kingdoms where malfettos are revered as children of gods rather than an abomination on all things natural. This is one area I wish the book expanded more on – for while we got to see new kingdoms and culture over the course of the sequel – we did not glimpse further into the magic system which ruled the malfettos. I also hoped to see more ordinary malfettos, to see how their tragedy compares to those marked with extraordinary powers.
I also had to suspend belief a little for a certain developments in this book. While I was not too surprised at the event, given Maeve’s power – I wondered what purpose it served. Adelina and The Dagger Society have already made peace with the events at the end of The Young Elites, and bringing out the old wounds did little to serve character arcs. I hold onto hopes that the political machinations which brought this event about will be given more weight in the last book, to lend this circumstance more credence. At least it gives us some delicious Raffaele angst *shrugs*
Overall, The Rose Society is a strong sequel with heart-stopping action and endless intrigue. The series calls out to everyone wanting their first taste of dark fantasy.