I’m not sure how this happened, but I appear to be reading Marie Lu’s books in the wrong order. Everybody I’ve spoken to seems to be in agreement that Legend is pretty fantastic but I have yet to read that trilogy. Instead I picked up The Young Elites first. I was in the mood for a darker read; something with an antihero and a bit of drama to it. Lu’s fantasy novel seemed like a unique concept and as a fan of the genre I was looking forward to an entertaining ride.
Firstly, there is a really great pack of characters. Adelina is our main character but she is by no means full of honourable intentions. She’s driven by revenge and anger and this makes her point of view really interesting to read – you can simultaneously feel bad for her while questioning some of her decisions. In fact no character is wholly good or bad; Enzo is the rightful heir to the throne but heading up a terrorist organisation to achieve his ends isn’t exactly the nicest way to go about it; Teren is the bad guy intent on genocide but he too has been manipulated. All of these characters operate in shades of grey.
Also the world in which this book takes place is quite different to the kinds of things I have previously encountered. Rather than your typical dingy medieval England setting the novel had a more Renaissance Italy feel to it: more opulent and grand.
There was a lovely bit of romance developing, as expected, however it was kept as a relatively minor sub-plot. A lot of the relationships in this book turned out to be bittersweet or had some kind or edge to them but were interesting nonetheless. What little romance we did get, particularly from Adelina and Enzo, was well written and had me rooting for them even though you know it’s never going to be that simple. Side note: there is no love-triangle. Yay!
Also if you love a good plot twist then brace yourself because there are some awesome ones in here!
Lack of communication is one of my reading pet peeves and I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with Adelina and her justifications for not telling the Young Elites about being blackmailed. It felt like such an easy way out for her and while I understand she was afraid of them, sharing was much better than the alternative. This big unnecessary ‘should-I-shouldn’t-I’ conflict took up a lot of time and consequently, I felt the pacing was a bit stagnant at times. In sort of a direct contrast to this, once Adelina’s chats with Teren came to light the other Elites all changed their opinions of her very quickly without even attempting to see things from her point of view. Their anger was understandable but to not at least try and empathise with her situation just felt so convenient; Adelina needed to break away and for that to happen they needed to hate her. Ugh, just talk it over!
Ultimately, I have to say that this a very well-crafted story with some shocking twists and complex characterization. I’d probably give it three and a half out of five. The ending is bittersweet, and full of exciting possibilities for the future; Lu is definitely not afraid of making big, game changing moves in her books which I admire her for. So all in all this is a promising start to a series and bound to be a great ride for those who enjoy fantasy that’s a little out of the ordinary.