The short: 3.5/5 ✦. A bit of a letdown compared to the first book, but still an incredibly well-plotted novel featuring morally ambiguous characters with fascinating powers.
I admit that I was expecting more from The Rose Society. After reading The Young Elites, I had had hopes that Adelina would finally and totally embrace her inner darkness and become the villainess she was always destined to be.
I suppose that’s a little melodramatic, but in this sequel book, I feel as though I got more of the same rather than something new, something that developed her character more. She’s still wrestling with light and dark, about using her powers to serve herself personally rather than for the greater good in general (good here being to take down the Daggers and to save her city). So sometimes she lets her darkness have free reign, but always always, she drags it back and then feels all guilty and stuff. Look, I admit it’s kind of odd to be rooting for a character to be evil, but there have been so many signs pointing her down that path, by the end of the book, you just want her to accept it all and go take over the world or whatever. I mean, this guy had the right idea:
Interestingly, we still get perspectives from the other characters, including Raffaele. That’s the most unique aspect of this series: both sides have their pros and cons, and the narrative doesn’t strictly make you choose either. Sometimes in stories with morally ambiguous characters (like Six of Crows), you still root for them because there are worse characters. In The Rose Society, everyone is pretty messed up and working for their own agendas. Bad stuff could happen if the Daggers have their way; equally, bad stuff could happen if Adelina and her new friends have their way. Teren is most obviously the worst of them—the main antagonist, if you will—but then, you already know you’re not supposed to root for him. It’s a battle between the Daggers and the Rose Society, and who will end up on top in the third book is anyone’s guess.
Basically, I think my main problem is that we were told repeatedly how evil Adelina is, but because she (generally) doesn’t intend to be (it’s not her fault her powers are fueled by fear), it falls a little flat. Context and intention are extremely important in motive; it reminds me a little of Elphaba from Wicked, where she basically became evil because everyone assumed she already was. She gave in, and that’s the tragic arc of her story. Adelina’s arc is more about her fighting it and kinda giving in? but then coming back? maybe? It’s not as clear-cut, and it’s more frustrating to read than intriguing. But I digress.
This is still an excellently written series, one with more strengths than flaws. I’m looking forward to the conclusion!
(P.S. Magiano is the best Elite EVER.)
Header image: The Rose Society by Marie Lu, published October 13th 2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.