The Rose Society was everything I wanted and needed in a sequel. While The Young Elites was enjoyable and entertaining, The Rose Society took everything the first book had done and made it better. The Rose Society was a fast-paced, adrenaline fueled story. I was floored. My brain could not comprehend anything after I finished reading the book.
The novel picks up a few weeks after the conclusion of The Young Elites. Adelina and her sister Violetta have fled Kenettra and wander the streets of nearby countries searching for other Young Elites to join Adelina’s new society and army of allies. Adelina has only one goal: to destroy the Inquisition Axis that ruined her life … and to seize control of the throne of Kenettra for herself. Teren Santoro, the leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead and her old friends at the Dagger Society want to stop her quest for vengeance. Adelina tries to cling to the good inside of her, but her powers, which feed off of fear, have begun to grow out of control. Through her reputation as the feared White Wolf, Adelina has gained control of an army of mercenaries and plans to infiltrate the royal palace and take what she believes is rightfully hers.
Adelina has quickly become one of my favourite YA characters. In The Young Elites she was clearly set up as the antihero, but in The Rose Society she develops into a fully-fledged villain and I love her for it. We are privy to her innermost thoughts which seethe in darkness, anger and occasional bouts of insanity. Despite this, Adelina is definitely a sympathetic character and one you can’t help but like, even taking into consideration all she has done and plans to do. At the end of the day, Adelina is still a young girl with fantasises of a life-long romance and loving friendships; Marie Lu has a way of reminding us of this, even amidst Adelina’s darkest scenes.
Raffaele frightened me in this novel. I still love him, but the reader is introduced to a darker, more powerful side of him. He so easily bends people to his will through his power and it is clear he has the ability to take over the world if he so desires. Raffaele, at least for me, is presented as the direct opposite of Adelina: they both feed off emotions, but while Adelina’s are based in fear and darkness, Raffaele’s are sourced from desire and light. He very well could turn into Adelina one day, if he longs for further power. But that there is the main difference between them: Raffaele knows when to stop, while Adelina, especially as the final scenes of the novel show, doesn’t.
My new favourite character is Magiano. He is the first Young Elite Adelina recruits into her society and his relationship with her is fueled with tension and longing. I really enjoyed how dedicated he is to Adelina and his eagerness to watch her rise to power. However, their slow-burning romance is placed in the background of the story, which I heartily approve of. I want this story to focus on Adelina’s rise to power and not be subsumed into that YA cliché of romance driving and taking over the plot. That definitely doesn’t happen here, and I am so thankful that Lu focuses on the right thing. Still, I hope that Magiano and Adelina find a way to be together, although I suspect Adelina will follow the same course as Elizabeth I of England: unmarried and completely focused on her throne.
I really enjoyed Teren’s character in The Young Elites, but he started to annoy me in the sequel. His personality is incredibly complex and sometimes I struggle to connect with him as he is so pious and stubborn. That being said, I think he is a great villain in a novel with a villain as the protagonist. His actions at the conclusion of the novel were gut-wrenching to read, even though I was rooting Adelina on. I look forward to finding out what becomes of him in the last novel of the series.
The novel’s plot was simply incredible. There was not one moment where I wasn’t perched on the edge of my seat, reading in morbid fascination. I can guarantee that no one will see anything coming. Lu has definitely discovered her calling in dark fantasy and I hope she honours us and continues writing in this genre. What I loved most about this novel is how dark it was. I have never experienced a novel quite like this before: yes, many YA books deal with dark themes, but not in the same way as The Rose Society does. Adelina wants ultimate power; she wants revenge against the people who ruined her life and won’t stop until she has destroyed them. But Adelina has also ruined her enemies’ lives in the process and Lu doesn’t even apologise for Adelina’s actions. That’s what makes this YA novel different from others. Adelina wants what she wants and won’t allow her conscience – or what society thinks is the ‘right thing’ – to stop her.
Marie Lu’s writing perfectly matched the tone and pace of the novel. Her words flow which makes the storyline compelling and addictive. The novel flows naturally and that makes it just that more believable, especially when we read Adelina’s thoughts. You can’t help but agree with Adelina even as she is contemplating doing a terrible thing. That’s how captivating Lu’s writing is: she has you agreeing with a villain.
The novel doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger and everything is tied up quite nicely. That being said, the final chapter was revelatory and astounding. I had to put the book aside for a good ten minutes as I experienced a wide range of emotions: I was shocked, excited, scared and unsettled. I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy The Midnight Star to be released. I need to know what will happen for Adelina next!