So I’ll start by saying that this review in particular comes down to personal preference and that I feel like the story warrants a higher rating, I just didn’t really care for it personally. I probably should just give up on YA fantasy as there are just SO many books out there in this category that the chance of finding ones I really enjoy and connect with is really slim. But there’s also so many intriguing premises and reviews that I keep getting sucked in…
So, this story is set in a world that seems vaguely inspired by Italy (at least Kenettra does) in language and scenery, but it’s also magical and filled with exotic creatures and people with special abilities. While I really liked the world and could visualise it, it wasn’t a fun place to be as the story is pretty much only dark. There are basically no light moments, no jokes, and very little hope. And that’s just not my jam.
Adelina Amouteru is a malfetto, a term used to describe the survivors of a horrible blood fever that swept through her world, killing lots and maiming many more. Malfettos are by many seen as inferior and treated badly, and they all have some kind of marking from having been ravaged by the fever and are therefore often easily identifiable. However, some malfettos have manifested special powers (creating rain or fire or illusions, manipulating air or animals to name a few) and are part of the group that is referred to as The Young Elites. The Young Elites are mysterious, with hidden identities and are feared and revered in almost equal measures.
A small group of The Young Elites form The Dagger Society, who aim to overthrow the king. The king in his turn has The Inquisition Squad at his disposal – seeking to hunt down and destroy the elites who are an obvious threat to his rule. Adelina gets caught up in the dagger society and learns to use and grow her power of weaving illusions, with disastrous consequences.
I have no problem with morally ambiguous protagonists and really enjoy them when they’re well-written, deep and complex. Unfortunately I felt this was not the case with Adelina. She has lived a life of abuse and deprivation, starved of love, so you can absolutely see why she would have all this darkness in her. My problem was that I felt that was all there was to her. Darkness, hurt, ambition and vengeance. The whole thing about her having good in her didn’t really come through, in my opinion. And mainly because of that I found her kind of two-dimensional and struggled to connect with her. Admittedly there’s also a lot about her alignment with power and ambition, and I just don’t find those things terribly interesting. At least there has to be a compelling reason behind the ambition and the need for power, and here I didn’t really see one.
I enjoyed the world building and that each chapter started with a little quote from an in-world book or document – that was a nice touch. But story- and character-wise this book just didn’t quite work for me.
But if you’re looking for a story of darkness and death and a struggle for power set in an interesting fantasy world then this could certainly fit the bill.