Monday, October 13, 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

“Some hate us, some fear us, some worship us. But all know us.”

Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever that swept through Kenettra a  decade ago. Her mother, like all infected adults, died. Her younger sister, Violetta, recovered unscathed. Adelina emerged flawed, a malfetto. Her left eye swelled so that the doctor had to cut it out with a red hot knife and a scar runs down the side of her face. She uses her hair to help conceal her scar. While her sister's hair remained black and shiny, Adelina's turned to a "strange, ever-shifting silver." Malfettos are feared and considered bad luck. Adelina's father, a struggling businessman, has had difficulty marrying her off. When she overhears her father accept payment from a businessman for her hand, she is shocked. Then she hears that she will be his mistress not his wife. He is already married and who would want to be married to someone like her. Adelina decides that tonight will be the night she finally flees her father’s house. Caught by Violetta as she is climbing out the window, she begs her to keep quiet. Adelina slips on her way out due to the heavy rainfall and drops some of the items she was taking in hopes to sell. She makes it to the stable and saddles her favorite stallion. They race through the storm until they reach the edge of the marketplace in Dalia. Her horse freezes up and that’s when she hears her father’s horse approaching. Calm yet clearly angry, Adelina’s father attempts take her home. He taunts her that she will never receive an offer any better than the one he accepted. She whispers that she hates him and he slaps her face, while still holding her by the hair. Something inside of Adelina snaps. With a rush of energy and blinding light, Adelina conjures ghostly phantoms who taunt her father. He tries to escape and she tries to stop the phantoms. Her father stumbles away, smashing into his horse before falling into the mud. The animal startles and rears up. It’s hooves land on her father’s chest, killing him.

Adelina is in shock. She never meant to kill her father, only to escape. Leaving her father’s body behind, she rides north in hopes of reaching the capital, Estenzia, where she can blend in. Five days later, she is found by a woman who offers her a place to sleep. The next morning, two Inquisition soldiers, the king’s peacekeepers, wake her up and drag her before the Inquisition. Violetta is there. She doesn’t answer that Adelina is her sister but her face gives her away. The Inquisitor charges Adelina with the murder of her father. Violetta proclaims her innocence and that she only tried to help her. Adelina is dragged to a prison cell where she has spent the past three weeks. Tomorrow, she will be executed.

Just before Adelina is set to die, the neighboring prisoner asks if she is really one of the Young Elites. He laughs as he asks her to break him out. Adelina ignores him and scoffs at the idea. She has been unable to recreate the strange illusions from the night of her father’s death. Hours later, Adelina is dragged to her execution. Once outside the Inquisition tower, she is blinded by the daylight and deafened by the shouts from the crowd who have gathered to watch her die. She is carried onto the platform when her body collapses and shackled to a stake. She is surprised to find out that the Lead Inquisitor of Kenettra, Master Teren Santoro, is a young man and he has come to see her die. Teren tells the crowd that the so-called Young Elites were demonic and will be brought to justice. Teren steps towards Adelina so they can see one another up close. He remarks to her after sweeping the mashed hair from her face that it was a shame; she would have been pretty. He signals farewell and lights the pyre. Terrified, Adelina is finally able to call forth her powers. The crowd grows quiet as the day grows dark with what turns out to be phantom locusts. The soldiers draw their swords and Adelina is unable to put out the flames. An Inquisitor draws his sword and moves towards her when she sees a figure move into her line of sight as the flames begin to die down. The Inquisitor tells him to stand aside and before she can blink, the boy sinks a dagger deep into the soldier's side. The other Inquisitors notice their fallen comrade and come to his aid. Barely missing being cut in half, the boy cuts off another soldier's hand. Adelina notices other masked figures darting around dressed the same as the boy. Teren shouts that it is The Reaper. As Inquisitors rush for him, he raises his hand and brings down his hand and separates himself from them with a wall of flame. He comes towards Adelina's and she sees his hooded face and silver mask. He melts her shackles with his flame to free her. She slumps down and he catches her. As he is carrying her away, the last thing Adelina sees is the silver dagger insignia on his armguard.

Adelina wakes up several days later in a luxurious suite like none she has ever seen before. Clean and her wounds bandaged, she is even more surprised when a servant enters dressed more elegantly than most of the merchants she has dealt with. She has brought Adelina her breakfast. The servant is about to leave and fetch someone when they hear him walking down the hall. Enzo Valenciano enters. He tells Adelina that he is the former crown prince of Kennettra. Enzo is also a survivor of the blood fever and a malfetto. Disfigured and considered bad luck, his sister’s husband claimed the crown when his father, the king, died. He is also the leader of the Dagger Society, a secret group of Young Elites who rescue other malfettos captured by the Inquisition. Adelina is shocked to find out who she is with. Everyone knows the names of the Young Elites; The Reaper, The Magiano, The Windwalker, The Alchemist. She is even more surprised to find out that her powers are of interest to them.

Enzo sends her to see Raffaele Bessette, another member of the Black Daggers. Raffaele takes her to a chamber to perform the first of several tests. This one will see what her strengths and weaknesses are and how her energy connects to the world. During the final part, Adelina reacts severely. She and Raffaele stare at one another. She asks what the last results mean. He replies hatred in one’s chest and darkness in oneself; fear and fury. Enzo will have to how decide how he feels about her and what it will mean about her training. She is not yet a member of the Dagger Society. Adelina will need to be able to have complete control over her powers. What Raffaele doesn’t say outright is that if she cannot control her powers, the Dagger Society will kill her.

What are Adelina’s powers? Why did it take so long for her powers to manifest? Can she master them? Will she become a member of the Dagger Society? Why do some malfettos have special powers? How does Enzo plan to use the Society? What happens when Adelina is unable to control her hatred?

Visit The Young Elites website.

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