“There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.”
I only discovered the phenomenal The Young Elites series a few months ago, so I didn’t have long to wait before I finally got my hands on the final novel in the trilogy, The Midnight Star. Even so, those few months I was forced to wait were pure hell. So quickly, The Young Elites trilogy has become one of my favourite of all time.
The Midnight Star picks up a year after the conclusion of The Rose Society. Adelina is Queen of Kenettra and slowly conquering other nations, building an Empire based on fear and death. With each conquest, Adelina grows crueller, treating the unmarked far worse than she was ever treated as a malfetto. Meanwhile, the Dagger Society is in hiding in Tamoura, still reeling from their last battle that saw Adelina seize the throne. When Raffaele realises how and why the Young Elites’ powers are killing them, he sends word to Adelina for help. Adelina joins her old friends and current nemeses on a quest that will save their lives and the world … but at the expense of their powers.
It is no secret that Adelina is one of my favourite YA characters. Her ambition, refusal to apologise for her actions, and general badassery makes her someone I, surprisingly, look up to and really admire. Adelina impressed me so much in The Midnight Star. At the beginning of the novel, she is in a really bad place, both mentally and emotionally: she is severely depressed and obsessed with tracking down her sister. Magiano is the only light in her life, but even he is not able to prevent the constant nightmares that plague her.
“You cannot harden your heart to the future just because of your past. You cannot use cruelty against yourself to justify cruelty to others.”
I think the question on everybody’s mind was whether Adelina would redeem herself in this novel, or still remain the villain. Would she step up to the title of Queen and rule fairly and justly, or would her desire for power and revenge consume her and hasten her descent into madness? Personally, I was hoping she would remain a villain. Despite Adelina’s evil actions, she is still a very sympathetic character. The reader wants her to succeed and achieve her goals even amidst the destruction she wreaks. I know I would have loved to have this book end with Adelina Queen of an Empire, sitting on a throne surrounded by the corpses of her enemies. (Wow, I went a little dark there). I think YA fiction suffers from a lack of diverse protagonists – nine out of ten times, the protagonist is a heroic one, which sometimes gets a little dry. This is why Adelina speaks to me as a protagonist – she differs from the status quo and revels in it.
Magiano and Adelina’s relationship was beautiful to watch to develop. There were many tension-filled scenes between the two that had me smiling even while on the verge of tears. His light-heartedness and moments of hilarity were sorely needed in such a dark novel. What I love most about Magiano is his acceptance of Adelina. He doesn’t try to change her nor does he try to force her to be good. He accepts her as she is, even as Raffaele and even Violetta lose their faith in her. No one else sees Adelina quite like Magiano does. I wish we could have gotten more chapters from his POV. He’s a very original character.
“The day will come when we strike you down,” she’s saying. “Mark my words. We will haunt your nightmares.”
I clench my fists and fling an illusion of pain across her body. “I am the nightmare.”
I’ve always said how much I loved Raffaele and in The Midnight Star he really shines. He is so intelligent and in tune with the world that he constantly keeps surprising me. I loved the mini-flashback he has where he recalls the first time he and Enzo met. However, I would have liked a follow-up to that scene and a few more interactions between Raffaele and Enzo. I was quite disappointed in Enzo’s character – he was very dull in this book. He didn’t talk much at all and there were many times I forget he was even there. Enzo has always been a beloved character of mine, and it was heartbreaking to read him like this.
The same occurred with Teren. I really enjoyed him at the beginning of the novel when Adelina is keeping him prisoner, but as the quest begins, he fades into the background, much like Enzo. I believe this occurs because of the length of the novel. The Midnight Star comes in at only 316 pages – quite short for the conclusion of an entire series, if you ask me. I definitely think many of these character issues could have been resolved if the novel was at least an extra 100 pages longer. Not to mention, there were several significant character deaths that felt so rushed and unemotional. There is nothing worse than having one of your favourite characters die and being unable to experience the sadness that comes with it. If Lu had been able to stretch the book out a little longer, The Midnight Star would have been near perfect.
“We were never meant to exist, Adelina,” he says. “And we will never exist again.”
I have to admit that while a lot was occurring plot-wise (which was fantastic), I think the pacing was a little off: everything happened too quickly, especially the important scenes. The battle scene occurred over a single chapter, as well as the significant character deaths. However, the final chapters of the novel made up for the pacing issues. I was kept on the very edge of my seat as the characters’ quest comes to fruition. So much happens in those last chapters that my brain couldn’t comprehend everything at once. I thought it was a beautiful conclusion to an amazing series and something I did not see coming. Each character’s journey ends in a surprising yet faultless way. The novel ends with a folktale about the life of the White Wolf that had tears rolling down my face and summed up the trilogy perfectly: was Adelina a powerful, courageous hero or was she a cruel villain? You decide.
“You are a light. And when you shine, you shine bright.”