From New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes the second book in the exhilarating Young Elites series
Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers that murdered her love, the Crown Prince Enzo Valenciano.
But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?
The Rose Society was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2015 (how could it NOT be, after the way The Young Elites ended) and it wasn’t everything I expected or hoped it would be, but in the end, it paid off. The end of this book was so devastating and terrifying and made my heart race, and it was the perfect culmination for Adelina’s character arc. Marie Lu has proven once again that she is willing to Go There and I respect her for it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Rose Society picks up where The Young Elites left off, with Adelina vs the Elites vs Teren and the queen. And wow, I already said this in my review of the Young Elites, but I love that none of those sides are exactly people you want to root for. They’re all messed up. They’re all willing to cross into morally gray territory to achieve their goals.
Adelina has gotten 200% more terrifying. Remember how in the first book her murders were mostly accidental, and how she felt ashamed and scared of what she was becoming even as she enjoyed her power? Now, Adelina has moved on to intentionally torturing and murdering people, and she. loves. it. She’s angry and calculating and ruthless and quickly spiraling out of control. She still wants love and acceptance, like she did in the first book, but she’s moving further and further away from that. I love that Marie Lu takes a premise that’s done so frequently in young adult books–a girl with a terrifying power and a capacity for darkness–and takes it into completely the opposite direction from what’s expected, making it into a slow-simmering villain origin story.
I really need to stop saying, “It’s okay that the secondary characters/world are underdeveloped! This is just the first book! The author will do more later in the series!” because I’m starting to learn that this doesn’t always happen. I’ve decided I’m all right with the fact that what we know of the world is limited to a Renaissance-Italy-analog and a few more countries we barely know anything about. I would have still liked to know more, but it works the way it is. But I really wanted the other Elites to be developed in the story, to feel more like actual characters, and other than a few not-particularly-interesting sections of Rafaelle backstory, there was nothing.
Like, after the epilogue of The Young Elites, I was SO excited for Maeve’s character, and there wasn’t nearly as much of her as I wanted. Other than one scene with Lucent (who is also still extremely underdeveloped), her main purpose in the story seems to be for her power to serve as a plot device.
There was a new character introduced, and he was okay, I guess, but I wasn’t very invested in him, and I would rather have had more fleshed-out characterization of Maeve or Lucent or Gemma or Violetta.
Marie Lu’s descriptions! I’d forgotten how gorgeous they were, and how immersive the setting was.
I’m just going to say this again: THE ENDING. Marie Lu knows exactly how to make her endings memorable and powerful and leave the reader wanting more. The last thirty pages made my heart race and made me tear up and legitimately fear for a certain character’s life. I can’t stop thinking about it nearly a week afterward. It was exactly the ending the book needed.
And as with the first book, Marie Lu’s ability to make me sympathize with certain characters even while I want to run away screaming amazes me. As I mentioned before, Adelina did some very morally questionable* things during this book, but because I was with her every step of the way from the lost girl with mostly good intentions, I still care about her and can’t help hoping she’ll find happiness. Same with Teren. There were quite a few times when I looked up from the book and thought, “This guy is seriously messed up. I bizarrely want to give him a hug.” (not that he’d take one from me, but…)
*major understatement alert
There was a certain thing I was really really hoping Marie Lu would not do in this book after finishing The Young Elites. I obviously can’t say what it is without spoilers; suffice it to say, she did The Thing. However, she made The Thing work. Rather than The Thing occurring in a manner that shields the main character from consequences, every narrative clue points to The Thing having still more devastating consequences in the third book.
If you’ve read the ending of The Young Elites you’re probably going to pick this up regardless of what I tell you, but yes. Pick this up. Don’t forget to breathe during the last few chapters.