by Marie Lu
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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.
Hey YOU! BOOK! You pretended to be right up my alley! You said I will love you! You said you were dark and captivating!
The truth is, after getting off to a flying start, the tension loosened more and more, making the next 300 pages a real core to read for me. When I first met Adelina, I was ecstatic : because of the darkness that seemed to lie in her heart, she appeared to be the kind of morally ambiguous character I could root for.
Too bad the whole book turned out to be completely anticlimactic : I. WAS. BORED.
✘ I don’t like Mari Lu’s writing : I wouldn’t be able to point what was wrong, exactly, but I kept feeling that something wasn’t quite right with it. Frankly, I think that the present tense throws me off guard. And her sentences seemed… weird to me sometimes, bugging me so much that I had to reread them. It didn’t flow smoothly. Not in my opinion anyway.
✘ Let’s forget the fact that there’s barely any world-building, except a re-creation of the Renaissance Italy with the black plague as an explication to the Young Elites new powers. Frankly, I’m okay with authors using real settings to create their fantasy world (take Mark Lawrence for example, whose Broken Empire is nothing more than Europe after an atomic war). However, if Mark Lawrence plays with this real background, letting the reader know where his inspiration lies, Mari Lu merely uses entire settings without never acknowledging what she borrowed. Changing names isn’t enough. Is it high fantasy? No. It’s alternate history with fantastic elements.
✘ The pacing was
uneven a big fail : after a strong beginning which put my feelings all over the place, nothing really happens during several chapters…. until we start a new cycle again : an amazing scene and then boring pages during which I don’t really know what to think. Like, the consort pages. What’s the point?
While I desperately wanted to feel something, to feel captivated, I was drowned in descriptions of clothes and other useless details. For real, how many times do I have to read the word velvet? Huh? Take Gabriele for example. I don’t need to know everything he’s wearing every day. Call me shallow, but I don’t care.
✘ This book is… putdownable. Is that a thing? (apparently, no, but I’ll make it a thing, because I can) Indeed I kept feeling distracted during my read and before I could think more about it I was doing something else entirely (laundry, watching TV, just name it). As far as my investment in the story is concerned, it’s a big huge fail for me.
✘ But my biggest disappointment is Adelina. I expected dark. I expected complex. That’s absolutely not what I got. Let’s get this straight : I love antiheroes. I have no problem to adore characters who are complete little shit and who embrace evil as a living. I crave them, for crying out loud, because good (haha) antiheroes are rare and complicated to create : how to make the readers root for a character whose actions disgust and disturb them? I have no clue, but when it’s well-done, it’s amazing. Adelina… wasn’t quite like that. She is NOT an antihero but spends her time whining about events that aren’t even her fault. Okay, okaaaay, she thinks about killing people and keeps telling us that there’s a darkness inside her but frankly? BRING IT, GIRL. Stop whining and show me that there’s more to you than your internal confusion. I was ready to accept EVERYTHING from her : jealousy, selfishness, murder instincts, betrayal, everything. What I got is a lot of TELLING but not near enough SHOWING to make me care about her. I didn’t.
And you know what happens when I don’t care about the characters?
It becomes a core to finish.
✘ I didn’t feel anything towards Enzo as well except during his first apparition (what? I’m an Assassin’s Creed whore and my eyes sparkle at the mention of daggers, don’t mind me).
✘ To be frank, during most of the book I got the impression that the characters were… wandering… to go…. somewhere… I think… It lacked directions and the plot was almost non-existent, except for the betrayal trope I see in every Fantasy YA book I read these days. Look, it was a trope I used to love, and I still do, when it’s executed properly, when it’s more than an easy way to bring angst in a story. Sadly, in my opinion it belonged to the second category : I simply COULDN’T FEEL Adelina’s struggles. Oh, she tells us. Well, she tells us a lot of things. But to me neither Teren nor Violetta felt like real characters, therefore I was never moved by this situation. Heavy sigh.
✔ The ending, though? It was good. It was everything I wanted from the book. It came… too late. How am I supposed to savor epic scenes if I haven’t given a fuck about the characters for pages and pages? Why using most of the book as a set-up for a shocking ending? It feels just… cheap to me. A genuinely great ending won’t make me forget that I was bored to death during 300 pages. Nope. Sorry.
This book didn’t quite give me what it was telling me.