4 out of 5 dark stars
This is the 2nd book in the Young Elites series by Marie Lu. Please note that there will be spoilers for book 1. If you want to see my review for book 1: make with the clicky clicky
If you don’t understand or don’t like the idea of an anti-hero, this is not the series for you. Because Adelina has gone dark…dark and deep. And the story widens. We’re beyond Estenzia, we see more points of view because the story is more complex. We also see Marie Lu sprinkling bits of information that feels important…and sure enough, it is.
Adelina is still smarting, burning actually, from being thrown out of the Daggers. She wants to find her own group of Elites, and heads out with her sister for Merroutas, where there are stories of a malfetto who can charm people into the sea with his lute, as well as a hundred other stories. His name, Magiano, is supposed to be where the word Magic came from (he was even briefly mentioned in the first book.) She finds him, but he doesn’t work with just anyone. He wants her to prove to him that she is worthy of his loyalty and devises a dangerous contest. It has much grimmer repercussions than he was expecting, and fires up Adelina’s already strong ambitions.
As for the Daggers,they approach Maeve of Beldain – remember her from the epilogue of the last book? Her mother has died, so she is now Queen. A long-time patron of the Daggers, she hoped that Enzo would take the throne and reopen trade between Beldaine and Kenettra. His death makes that a little inconvenient, but of course, Maeve can raise the dead. Remember that? Since Gulietta has taken the crown in Kenettra, Maeve and her brothers need to go and recognize her and do a ceremonial gift exchange. But what they plan on doing is trying to raise Enzo from the dead so they can put him on the throne. She’s kind of glossing over how her brother, who she also brought back from the dead, has gone all weird. He’s got the strength of ten men now, and is soley under her control. No one knows the repercussions of bringing an elite back from the dead.
So what we get is this three way showdown between Gulietta and her Inquisition, Maeve with the Daggers, and Adelina and her crew. There is also the battle between Adelina and herself. Since her powers of illusion have grown stronger, they have also grown instinctual, often going far beyond her intentions. Sometimes they even slip free. She sees people she knows are dead, and even gets caught up in her own illusions. And it’s getting worse. Despite all that, she is pretty badass. She wrestles a lot with her desires to wreak vengeance, there are everpresent whispers, most likely a side effect of her ability, so you know all this comes with a cost, but she really performs some pretty amazing feats. I just wonder how it’s all going to end.
I thought the new characters were good additions, but I wanted more from Magiano. There was such a buildup to his character but after he pushes Adelina to prove herself. I feel because of him, her ambitions definitely grew beyond what she had wanted before. But it felt like he was just there to save the day, he didn’t have any impact. He clearly has feelings for her but I didn’t know why. It felt like “everyone must love the main character” syndrome. I think I needed more between them. I also didn’t like how quick the Daggers were to set Enzo up as a puppet for Maeve. I would think it was obvious that was her intention. I get that she’s a malfetto and would have been a much better queen than Gullieta but it still bothered me. I still don’t agree that Enzo was a great ruler. His own ties to ambition and darkness are as strong as Adelina’s. Like I said in the review of the first book, he didn’t encourage camaraderie among his people. He was divisive. Together, he and Raffaele were ruthless. Raffaele is pretty, so I guess that’s his excuse or how he got away with it. I also couldn’t help but wonder how Raffaele would feel about Maeve if she had taken that test with the stones. I wonder if he’d want to kill her, too? That just really burnt my butt in the first book.
There is so much betrayal and so many switchbacks, I almost don’t know how I feel. I was sad The Daggers are so set against Adelina. She was never one of them, they never gave her much of a chance. As a result, there are all these people that you pretty much like from the last book who are the enemies of the main character and as a reader, I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn. But it wasn’t too predictable. I knew a couple things were coming, but I think you’d have to