The Rose Society by Marie Lu: A Review

the rose society by marie lu

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 who nearly killed her.

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? — [X]

First things first: I’m taking a bit of a break from the blog at the moment. (Not because I’m tired of it. Just a combination of being behind on reading and travel.) Starting the third week of November, I’ll be posting double the amount so I can properly participate in this month’s fun theme. (BTW, loving Sunshine by Robin McKinley, Janet!)

Until then, I’ve scheduled a couple of posts for books that I’ve read recently and haven’t had the chance to talk about– starting with, of course, Marie Lu’s The Rose Society. So, ICYMI, I had a blast reading and writing about The Young Elites when it came out. I wasn’t sure what to expect from book two, I just knew I wanted it. It was a long wait … but maybe that was a good thing? The wait allowed me to calm down and collect myself. In fact, The Rose Society reminded me that the pause between books might even be necessary for a reader like myself. There’s something about this series that leaves you feeling a little exhausted (in a good way!) and breathless by the end. Partly because Adelina and Raffaele make for such magnetic characters who can also be rather infuriating (also in a good way!) and partly because you strain not to yell at them (lovingly!) while reading in public*.

Mostly, though, it’s Marie Lu’s ability to twist one’s heart to beat for each and every character. [Dear Marie, a reader’s heart can only take so much, okay? Tearfully signed, Yash.] The Young Elites ended with Adelina and the Elites splitting ways. We know that, in all probability, there is no way to root for one character’s happiness in The Rose Society without compromising another character’s sense of peace. And yet, Lu’s characters are so interesting, so full of life, so complex that you just can’t help wanting the best for everyone. Okay, fine, except for Teren and Giulietta. Those slavers can rot. It was a very interesting experience, reading this one. I am not sure about other readers but personally, I spent most of it trying to forgive, trying to understand, and oddly enough, trying to defend the characters’ decisions as well as my own decision to forgive/forget. I found myself drawing lines between humanity and monstrosity, and then two pages later, I found myself redrawing that line to accommodate those characters and my own increasingly warped sense of justice.

Not to say there weren’t light moments, or fun characters, or that TRS didn’t deliver the simple joy of diving into a story that is so relentless or into a fantasy world that is so vastly diverse. All of that was present, but if that were all it contained it would not have been quite as excellent as it could have been. Marie Lu writes these characters’ personalities, histories, actions, and the consequences of those actions, with the dispassionate precision of a writer who knows her end point and is steadily working towards it, as well as with the empathy and care that a good writer ought to have. And, yes, it shows.


Now, I must admit that compared to The Young Elites with its smooth writing and seemingly effortless world-building, The Rose Society probably could have used a little more editing. It’s the tiny things, you know, like when certain striking words/descriptions are repeated too close together. It sometimes took me out of the narrative– something I don’t remember happening with the first book. That said, between The Young Elites and The Rose Society, I think I prefer the latter. Story-wise The Rose Society is far more gripping, far more heart-breaking, and (at times) even funnier, than its predecessor. Watching Adelina interact with her sister Violetta, seeing how society’s prejudices colour Adelina’s understanding of her own self-worth, noticing how she is both powerful and powerless, and feeling all her want and helplessness and frustration is intense enough … but then we’re also feeling a whole range of emotions for characters like Raffaele and Magiano** and Lucent and, ugh fine, even Teren and Guiletta … I am not really sure how I got through this one.

Basically, if you’ve read The Young Elites, definitely read the sequel. The Rose Society is pretty damn epic. If you haven’t read The Young Elites, well, read it. There’s no way you’d regret reading Marie Lu, trust me.

*Made a lot of choking noises while reading.

**To those who have read the book, can we please talk about how much of a dorky baby Magiano is?