Book four takes us into the 1300’s in the land of Kenetira.
This is a land loosely based on Spain, during the years before the Spanish Inquisition. Like the Spaniards of the 1300’s, the people look to destroy the Malfettos (young people who have been marked by the destructive blood fever).The Young Elites (A Young Elites Novel) by Marie Lu, takes us back in time when cities depended on trade merchants, people sought silks, fine jewelry and suitable matches for their daughters.
Master Amouteru had two beautiful daughters and a lovely wife to call his own. But a terrible plague ravaged the country. The Blood Fever wiped out any adults that it infected. Hundreds of thousands of people died, including the wife of Master Amouteru. Both daughters, Adelina and Violetta, where stricken with the fever. Violetta was spared any lasting damage. Adelina was not so lucky. Her left eye had to be removed and had hair that turned shifting shades of silver. It was rumored among the people that some Malfettos, not only were marked in appearance, but developed abilities. Abilities that could burn a man from the inside out, or that could move unnoticed like the wind.
On these rumors, Master Amouteru had a plan. What if his daughter had such powers? How could he use them to his advantage? In an effort to call upon powers he wished were there, Master Amouteru was cruel to Adelina. He broke fingers and made her torture and kill a butterfly in front of her sister. His words caused fear to Adelina’s heart. Abomination. Monster. Bringer of bad fortune. Malfettos were shunned, burned, murdered in the street. The people thought that all the bad that happened to them, poverty, droughts and famine where the results of the Malfettos.
The King and Queen, to deal with this issue, set out a task force of Inquisitors lead by the young Teren Santoro, to deal with the Malfettos as they see fit. Most Malfettos are harmless. No different from scars we get from bad acne or injuries. But those with true power are hunted. Adelina, just sixteen, sneaks from her bed one night to listen to her father who is entertaining a very late visitor. A Trade Merchant has come to offer Master Amouteru much gold to take Adelina as his mistress.
Outraged and scared, Adelina quickly grabs some spare clothes and silver that she can sell. As she is ready to climb out the window, Violetta comes into her room to try to stop her. Always the favorite, Violetta does not want their father angered and pleads with Adelina to stay. Adelina leaves, after wishing her sister well, and makes it away in the dead of night. But when she stops to rest, she hears the thundering of hoofs and in her fears she knows it is her father.
Master Amouteru catches Adelina. Fear and anger mix with the torture of his hand pulling and grabbing her body as she struggles to break free. The color drains from the world. Adelina sees everything in black and white. The shadows start to move and form into demons. Adelina is causing this, and she likes the power. This book does a great job at mirroring the real life events of the Spanish Inquisition. The fear in those times were not of children with powers, but of the Jewish faith. From the King and Queen, to the mirroring of the Malfettos hiding who they are, like the Jews of the time. Marie Lu captures the resentment, the fear and the tension of that period in history.
I won’t spoil the introduction of the Young Elites themselves because I really enjoyed the description and how each character interacts with Adelina. To summarize it or introduce them would take a large part away from the book. Which spoiling any book is the worst crime a book reviewer can commit. I haven’t read Marie Lu’s other series, The Legend Trilogy, so this is my first interaction to her as a writer. Marie Lu’s characters remind my of Moira Young’s Dust Land series. Very strong female leads with an equally strong supporting cast and one handsome, yet formidable villain.
Would I recommend the book? Yes it has some wonderful imagery, the story is well done and the pace is perfect. Not too fast, not too slow.
But Adelina as a character, who feeds on fear and has a thirst for revenge, be it a heroine, let alone a role model, leaves me wondering. Was the author looking to make her stand out from the other main female leads of the top books today? I say yes, great job but as the series unfolds, I’m curious to know how dark Marie Lu is comfortable pushing Adelina.