Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

The Midnight Star (Young Elites #3)

Cover image for The Midnight Star by Marie Lu by Marie Lu

ISBN 978-0-399-16785-0

“I do it because I want to. Because I can. That’s what anyone truly means when they gain power and call it altruism, isn’t it? I’m just not afraid to admit it.”

With her Roses at her side, Adelina Amouterou has become the Queen of not only Estenzia, but all the Sealands. She has raised up the malfettos, and subjected the unmarked to the very brutalities they once visited on her kind. Now, she has set her sights on conquering Tamoura, and extending her rule once more. Whispers also say that her sister Violetta fled to Tamoura after their falling out. But Adelina’s plans to conquer the world are disturbed by one problem; sooner or later she must face the inexorable deterioration of the Elites, as their immortal powers slowly destroy their all-too-mortal bodies. The voices in her head grow louder, and her illusions become more and more difficult to control. Facing this threat will require dangerous and uneasy alliances with old enemies and former friends if the world is to survive.

Over the course of The Young Elites series, Adelina has transformed from victim of her father’s brutalities into a terrifying despot in her own right. As Queen, she turns the injustices she faced on others for revenge, and has an insatiable appetite for conquest. The more powerful she becomes, the more isolated and paranoid she must necessarily be. Marie Lu has carefully crafted this slow transformation, and here we see Adelina balancing on the precipice of becoming so paranoid that she does not trust even Sergio or Magiano. The potential for her descent into complete madness is evident, even as Lu lays out an interesting new narrative path for The Midnight Star.

Rafaele and Violetta continue to form the empathetic counterpoint to Adelina’s fear and violence, with Rafaele serving as another narrative point of view. The Daggers steadfastly oppose Adelina’s empire-building, allying with Tamoura against her. As powerful Elites continue to sicken, can the extended hand of partnership be met with anything but violence from a ruler who has confused revenge with justice? Adelina and Violetta’s relationship has undergone a complex transition as the series has progressed, and that bond remains at the heart of The Midnight Star. Lu has a delicate balance to strike between making Adelina truly terrifying, and giving her motivations that are understandable despite their dark consequences. Violetta is often the key to that balance.

At the start of the series, Adelina was a girl caught between the Inquisition and the Daggers, with both groups desiring to bend her to their own purposes. Now she is powerful in her own right, but faced with a situation in which she has to decide if she will cooperate with those who she has little cause to trust. Readers’ satisfaction with The Midnight Star will likely hinge on their interest in seeing Adelina either redeemed or fully committed to her dark path.


Previously in this series:

The Young Elites

The Rose Society 

Challenges, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)

Cover image for The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu by Marie Lu

ISBN 978-0-399-16784-3

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2015. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, so she destroyed them all.”

After Adelina’s mistake cost Enzo his life in a duel with Master Inquisitor Teren Sorento in The Young Elites, she finds herself ousted from the Dagger Society. Along with her sister, Violetta, she flees Estenzia for the city-state of Merroutas. Bent on revenge, she begins recruiting her own band of Elites in order to strike back at the Inquisition Axis. In Estenzia, Queen Giulietta, freed of her husband the Duke, and her brother the Prince, becomes the sole ruler of Kenettra, with Teren and the Inquisition to do her bidding. But with her brother gone, her hatred for malfettos seems to fade, putting her at odds with the man who controls her army, and will stop at nothing to cleanse Kenettra of abominations like himself.

Stakes are high and allegiances shift quickly in Marie Lu’s follow up to The Young Elites. While Adelina seeks revenge, the Daggers have made their own plans, allying with the newly crowned Queen Maeve of Beldain, who is a malfetto herself. In Beldain, Elites are revered as the children of the Gods, but Adelina is still stunned to discover that his friends would betray Enzo’s throne into foreign hands, even to save the malfettos. The story grows darker as Adelina’s alignment to evil continues to grow, and her illusions become so powerful that sometimes even she is caught up in them. In these moments, she relies on Violetta to supress her power and bring her back to reality. Her ambition also flares, and what starts out as a quest to avenge Enzo and keep his throne from foreign hands turns into a bid for power.

Whereas the focus of The Young Elites was largely world-building, The Rose Society is more concerned with how Adelina’s character progresses as she gains power, and that power becomes more unpredictable. Adelina’s basic motivations are sympathetic; she resents the persecution malfettos have faced at the hands of the Inquisition, and feels that it is unfair for the Daggers to villainize her for simply doing what she needed to do to stay alive. She feels guilty over Enzo’s death, and horrified by the idea that her mistake could destroy his country as well as his life. But her understandable motivations are warped by anger, fear, and greed, until a character who started out as something of an anti-hero becomes much more of a villain.

As the series progresses, the conflict becomes more multi-faceted; the Elites schism into rival factions, and loyalties within each group are sorely tested.  Whereas The Young Elites pitted the Daggers against the Inquisition, The Rose Society brings Adelina and her new band of Elites toe-to-toe with the Daggers. Their rival visions for the future of Kenettra prevent them from banding together against the Inquisition in all but the most desperate moments. The action is fast-paced, if occasionally too convenient. For example, Adelina walks off a ship in Campagnia, spots Gemma in the crowds on the docks, and is able to follow her to a secret meeting of the Daggers, where she is able to overhear all their plans.

While the conclusion of The Young Elites hinted quite strongly at what lay in store for the sequel, the ending of The Rose Society is more ambiguous. It remains unclear whether Adelina can be redeemed, or if the conclusion of the series will see her complete the journey into villainy.


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Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

The Young Elites

Cover image for The Young Elites by Marie Luby Marie Lu

ISBN 978-0-399-16783-6

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“I hereby pledge to serve the Dagger Society, to strike fear into the hearts of those who rule Kenettra, to take by death what belong to us, and to make the power of our Elites known to every man, woman, and child. Should I break my vow, let the dagger take from me what I took from the dagger.” 

Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto, a scarred survivor of the blood plague that swept through Kenettra ten years ago. At first, victims of the plague elicited sympathy, but soon malfettos became hated and feared as symbols of the judgement of the gods. Others, however, whisper about the Young Elites, malfettos with unnatural powers who are folk heroes to some, and villains to others. Adelina’s beautiful younger sister, Violetta, also had the blood plague, but emerged unmarked, and will soon be eligible to make an advantageous marriage. But no one wants to marry a one-eyed malfetto, and when Adelina’s father strikes a bargain to sell his older daughter as a mistress in order to pay off his debts, Adelina decides to run away. On her own, Adelina runs afoul of the Inquistion, and its leader, Teren Sorento, who is sworn to eliminate malfettos from Kenettra once and for all. Liberated from the Inquistion by a mysterious alliance of Young Elites called the Dagger Society, Adelina finds herself caught in the middle of a political movement to which she has little choice but to pledge herself and her newfound powers. While she is uncertain of the cause, she is intrigued by the Dagger Society’s leader, the fire-wielder known as The Reaper, once called Enzo Valenciano. However, Teren Sorento isn’t willing to let her go so easily.

Fresh off the success of her Legend series, Marie Lu begins a new trilogy with The Young Elites. As in the Legend trilogy, Lu incorporates multiple perspectives, including other members of the Dagger Society, and even Teren the Inquisitor. Adelina remains the central character, but she is not your usual sympathetic protagonist. She is angry and afraid, and her inability to control these emotions makes her dangerous and unpredictable. This is a realistic outcome of her abusive upbringing, but it does not endear her to others, or inspire them to trust her. However, her desire to be independent and to make her own decisions rather than be manipulated by either political faction earns her a grudging respect from the reader. Her rescuers are realistically motivated rather than unerringly altruistic, and her unwillingness to throw herself on their mercy is understandable.  Though a burgeoning romance with Enzo complicates her situation, romance is not at the centre of Adelina’s dilemma, but rather the focus is on her struggle to define herself outside her family, while two great and opposing forces try to shape her to their will.

The plot moves along steadily, though Lu spends ample time on world building and exploring Adelina’s damaged mental landscape, both of which take centre stage in the middle part of the novel. Kenettra is an Italianate nation with a Renaissance vibe, while distant Beldain draws inspiration from Britain, and promises to feature more prominently as the series progresses. However, the slightly slower middle section moves towards a stunning conclusion. The grand finale kicks off with a somewhat improbable duel, but instead of leading to the predictable result, Lu brings out the big guns for an unexpected finish that opens the field for book two of The Young Elites to take this series to the next level. The epilogue is a masterful final touch on this unexpectedly gritty fantasy novel that promises great things to come.


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Fiction, Young Adult

YA Fall Fiction Preview Part 1

The Fall Preview series continues with a sneak peek at some exciting science fiction and fantasy YA novels coming out  over the next few months. Here are some of the exciting YA reads I heard about at ALA:

Cover image for Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Uglies author Scott Westerfeld is back this fall with a meta-novel that tells two intertwined stories. Darcy Patel puts her post-secondary education on hold and moves to New York in order to focus on publishing her teen novel. She doesn’t know anybody, and has no place to live, but she soon finds herself caught up in a community of writers. Interspersed with her story is that of Lizzie, the protagonist of her novel, who slips into the Afterworld–a place between life and death–to survive a terrorist attack. Available September 23, 2014.

First sentence: “The most important email that Darcy Patel ever wrote was three paragraphs long.”

Cover image for Atlantia by Ally CondieAtlantia by Ally Condie. Known for her dystopian trilogy Matched, Crossed, and Reached, Ally Condie returns in October with a new dystopian world that recalls elements of the legend of Atlantis, and The Little Mermaid. The world has been Divided between those who live Below in the city of Atlantia, where they enjoy health and longevity, while those who live in the polluted Above make a sacrifice in order to ensure the survival of mankind beneath the waves. Rio has always dreamed of living Above, but after their mother died, she promised her twin sister, Bay, she wouldn’t leave her. Then Bay betrays her, causing Rio to reveal a secret she has kept all her life. On sale October 28, 2014.

First sentence: “My twin sister, Bay, and I pass underneath the brown-and-turquoise banners hanging from the ceiling of the temple.”

Cover image for A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia GrayA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Ahead of the Spring 2015 release of the conclusion to her Spellcaster trilogy, Claudia Gray begins a new series with A Thousand Pieces of You.  Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant scientists, creators of the Firebird, an invention which allows people to travel to parallel universes. When Marguerite’s father is murdered by his assistant, who then escapes into another dimension, only Marguerite is prepared to go after the killer, chasing him across worlds. Coming November 4, 2014.

First sentence: “My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall.”

Cover image for The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites by Marie Lu. Adelina Amouterou is a rare survivor of the blood fever that decimated her generation a decade ago, leaving her scarred and deformed, an abomination in her father’s eyes. But rumours continue quietly circulating that some of the survivors have been left not just with scars, but unusual gifts. It is a top secret race between the Dagger Society to recruit these special survivors, and the Inquisition Axis, which seeks to eliminate them. Marie Lu, author of the bestselling Legend trilogy, returns with The Young Elite on October 7, 2014.

First sentence: “I’m going to die tomorrow morning.”

Check back next week for part two of the YA fall fiction preview, which will focus on more contemporary/realistic YA fiction.