Chapter 4: Adelina
The chapter opens with a flashback to Adelina and Violetta’s childhood. Adelina describes the dream/memory as a time when they are “still innocent”. The sisters are playing in their garden, when Violetta notices a butterfly with a missing wing. She wants to save it, but Adelina declares that it’s beyond saving and slaps it out of Violetta’s hand. She feels immediately remorseful, but their father arrives, sizes up the situation, and tries to manifest Adelina’s powers from her by provoking her. He still doesn’t know if she gained powers from the blood fever, but enough rumors have circulated about children that did gain abilities for him to be hopeful that Adelina did as well. When making her kill the butterfly doesn’t make her powers appear Sir Martino breaks her finger. Dreaming/remembering this makes Adelina bolt out of her sleep.
She awakens in an elegant bedchamber. Her wounds have been tended to and her dirty clothes replaced. A maid knocks on the door and enters with food but doesn’t answer any of Adelina’s questions. She begins to leave, saying she will inform “him” that she’s awake, but before she can leave, “he” enters the room.
“He” turns out to be the masked boy that saved her from the Inquisition. He sits next to Adelina and begins by pointing out she’s part Tamouran because her last name is Tamouran, not Kenettran. Adelina reveals that her mother had a Tamouran nickname for her, kami gourgaem, which means ‘little wolf’.
The boy tells Adelina that she is in the middle of Estenzia, which is the capital of Kenettra and one of the farthest cities from Dalia. He then tells her his name is Enzo, also known as the Reaper. Enzo demonstrates his ability to create fire for Adelina, and tells her his blood fever story. He asks her to share the moment she first realized the blood fever gave her abilities. Adelina at first protests, but eventually tells Enzo she contracted the blood fever at age 4, and only recently discovered her powers of illusion. Enzo reveals that there are more young adults like them, who also understand what it means to be marked, to be abominations in the eyes of others. He shares stories of children that didn’t keep their powers a secret and were killed because of them. He also tells Adelina that he is the leader of the Dagger Society, a group of Young Elites that tries to find and train other malfettos with powers before the Inquisition can.
Enzo reveals the end goal of the Dagger Society: to seize the throne and liberate the malfettos of Kenettra. At this point, Adelina realizes that Enzo is also the former crown prince of Kenettra who nearly died from the blood fever. When he emerged from the disease marked, he was deemed unfit to rule and banished by his older sister. Adelina realizes that by creating the Dagger Society, Enzo assembled a team to help him retake his thrown. And now, he wants her to join them. He offers her friendship, protection from the Inquisition, compensation, and training to help her control her powers. When Adelina hesitates, Enzo reminds her of the times she was called a monster, an abomination, and worthless. He asks her if she wants to punish those that have wronged her. The scene cuts before we can see Adelina’s final answer.
Chapter 5: Teren
Elsewhere in the city of Estenzia, Teren and Queen Giulietta are having a tryst at the royal palace. The two are secretly sexual and political partners and have been for an undisclosed period of time. The Queen asks if the Dagger Society took Adelina under their protection. Teren informs her that they have, but that he is in hot pursuit, and has Violetta in his custody. Before parting, the Queen tells Teren that the king is busy with his mistress and that she’ll come visit him later that night.
Chapter 6: Adelina
After a week of resting, Adelina is finally well enough to leave her chamber. Her maid helps her get ready, and then takes her through a secret passageway to a brothel. Here she meets Raffaele, a consort and a member of the Dagger Society. Raffaele is the mysterious Messenger, the one who informed Enzo about Adelina’s whereabouts. He tells Adelina that his job is to locate and recruit Young Elites for the Dagger Society by using his ability to sense others like them.
As Adelina marvels over the beauty and opulence of the Kenettran capital city, Raffaele talks about the treatment of malfettos in the city. Unlike the Skylands, which suffered mildly from the blood fever and thus celebrate their few malfettos, Estenzia was devastated and uses malfettos as scapegoats for other problems plaguing the country. Raffaele then takes Adelina to his workspace, and takes out several large gems. He tells Adelina that before she can join the Dagger Society, she must pass a series of tests, and these gems are apart of the first one. Each of the gems is symbolic of a different type of energy, and a different god or goddess. Each Young Elite responds to different energies, and the first test is to determine which energies resonate within Adelina the most.
After Raffaele’s first pass, 7 of the 12 gems are eliminated from Adelina’s reading. The remaining five represent power, ambition, wisdom, passion, hatred, and the strength in fear. One by one, Raffaele makes Adelina interact with each stone. With each interaction comes a memory from Adelina’s childhood. In some memories she is doing vindictive things to her sister or strangers, while in others she is the victim of either self-imposed harm or violence meted out by her father. As she is testing her affinity for amber and nightstone, Adelina is bombarded by a tumult of violent memories she has tried to suppress. Her fear and fury build and she hears her father whisper to her, “Who will ever want you, Adelina?” She responds, “Everyone. They will cower at my feet, and I will make them bleed.” At this, the memories and noise stop.
Raffaele seems shaken by what has transpired, though he tries hard to not show it. He tells Adelina he needs to consult with Enzo, but that it may be a while before she becomes a member of the Dagger Society. She has a long way to go before she has mastery over her abilities. Raffaele doesn’t tell her exactly what will happen if she fails to gain control, but he does share a story of boy from a few years ago. This boy could control water, but had a fragile hold on his abilities. He caused a severe drought in Kenettra, resulting in the death of many malfettos, who were blamed. Raffaele tells Adelina this story to demonstrate how a malfetto without control can be a danger to them all. Though she seems promising, she is an investment and a risk for the Dagger Society, and if she proves to be a weak link, she will be eliminated.
Chapter 7: Raffaele
Later that day at midnight, Raffaele waits for a visitor in his bedchamber. The visitor turns out to be Enzo, who updates him about a mission they have planned to take down the king and queen. Enzo then enquires about Adelina, and how her first test went. Raffaele tells him of the different affinities Adelina showed, particularly her strong connections to hatred, the darkness in oneself, and the strength of fear. Enzo’s ambition flares up at this, much to Raffaele’s chagrin. He fears that Enzo will be blinded by Adelina’s potential to see the immense danger she could place them in.
Raffaele suggests that they kill Adelina, before she has a chance to increase in strength. He says that there is something very wrong with her, something twisted that yearns to get out and wreak havoc. While Enzo agrees with Raffaele’s assessment, he believes they can train Adelina and use her to achieve their end goal. He tells Raffaele he will monitor Adelina closely, and if she continues to pique Raffaele’s alarm, he will get rid of her.
Before he leaves Raffaele’s room, Enzo notices bruises encircling the young consorts neck. Enzo deduces that one of Raffaele’s patrons manhandled him, and asks for the name of the perpetrator. At first Raffaele seems reluctant, but eventually “his gentle heart hardens” and tells Enzo it was Count Maurizio Saldana. The next morning Inquisitors find Count Saldana’s body nailed to this front door, burnt to a crisp.
Chapter 8: Adelina
Back in Adelina’s room, she is dreaming of her sister. Violetta is petrified of thunder and would go to Adelina for comfort, which Adelina liked because her sister’s helplessness made her feel powerful. The dream morphs from an intimate moment between the two sisters to Adelina being stranded in the waters of Underworld. There, Formidite, angel of fear and daughter of death, greets her. Formidite whispers to Adelina “Fear is power,” before a hand pulls Adelina underwater (Lu 2014 pp. 162).
At this Adelina jerks awake and contemplates her current state of affairs. She weighs her options and decides the best course of action is to follow along with the Dagger Society’s plans for her. So when Raffaele comes to her room at dawn and says the other members of the Dagger Society are waiting for her, she doesn’t hesitate.
Raffaele leads Adelina to the catacombs that weave like a honeycomb beneath Estenzia. Before long they enter a cavern and stand before 5 members of the Dagger Society. Enzo is one of them, along with 2 more boys and 2 girls. Enzo begins the proceedings by telling Adelina she is the first Elite to react so strongly to darkness and strength of fear. That is where her power lies, and the Daggers will try to make it rise to the surface by attacking her in turn.
Two Daggers called Spider and Star Thief attack first. Spider has the ability to see where others cannot, while Star Thief can control beasts and make them do her bidding. The two of them overwhelm Adelina with attacks before Enzo steps in and stops Spider from administering a punishing blow. Next it’s the other girl’s turn. She is called Windwalker and looks as if she is from the Skylands, not Kenettra. Windwalker has the ability to do everything and anything the wind can do. When she and Adelina are fighting, Adelina imagines her father hurting her while Violetta screams in the background for him to stop. She mistakes Windwalker for her father and lashes out at her thinking she is injuring him. Instead of being upset, Windwalker praises Adelina and remarks that Adelina likes being provoked.
Finally, it’s Enzo’s turn. He erects a circle of fire around them and makes it close in on Adelina. He’s forcing her to relive her moment on the stake, when she nearly died. As he draws nearer to Adelina her fear, hatred, anger, and desire crescendo and fuse into one. Adelina becomes attuned to the darkness within herself and the badness and wickedness of the Daggers. As her father’s ghost whispers to her “Show me what you can do”, Adelina creates black silhouettes with red eyes (Lu 2014 pp. 188). Before she makes them attack, Enzo steps away from Adelina. No longer in fear for her life, Adelina’s hold on her powers slips, and her illusions fade away.
In this section of the book several new characters are introduced. We meet the mysterious Messenger who first told Enzo where to find Adelina. He is Raffaele, a consort, a member of the Dagger Society, and Enzo’s right hand. Though he is all sweetness and comfort to Adelina’s face, when discussing her with Enzo, Raffaele hardens and makes a case for her execution by the Dagger Society. He thinks she is too unpredictable and dangerous. Raffaele’s characterization is interesting. Though he is described as having a soft heart, he can reconcile himself to decisions and actions that others may think are drastic. His true feelings about Adelina are an example of dramatic irony in the book, as so far Adelina has no clue he advised Enzo to kill her.
Besides Raffaele, we also meet Queen Giulietta and the other Daggers. In introducing Giulietta Lu uses several literary devices, including simile and foreshadowing. She uses a simile to describe Giulietta’s eyes, and foreshadows that she may be the death of Teren. As for the other Daggers, we learn their codenames, their abilities, a little about their individual personalities. The one called Spider already has a keen dislike of Adelina, while the two girls, Star Thief and Windwalker, seem to still be forming their opinions of her.
Aside from new characters, this section also features new themes and motifs. In a flashback sequence we see Violetta and Adelina at a time when they are “still innocent”. During this scene the end of innocence theme is introduced. Through her own actions and those of her father, Adelina begins her recession into darkness and violence.
Other themes explored in this section are the fear is power and investment themes. Fear is power is perhaps the central theme of the work. It is manifested in many ways and by a plethora of characters. For example, Enzo points out to Adelina how the king and queen of Kenettra are able to keep their power by encouraging their citizens to fear and hate malfettos. Later, as the Dagger Society tests Adelina we learn she has a strong connection to the strength in fear, and that her illusion abilities are fueled by the fear, violence, and darkness of herself and those around her. For Adelina, fear literally is power.
Raffaele continues the investment theme that was already introduced by Adelina’s father. He tells Adelina that she is an investment and a risk for the Dagger Society, one that they expect a return on. They have protected, clothed, and fed her, and will be investing their time and efforts into training her. All of these things are not out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather calculated, business-like transactions. Their kindness has strings attached to it, a motif that will recur throughout the novel.
One final thing to note is the parallelism between Adelina and Enzo’s markings. Both have unnatural hair colors, courtesy of the blood fever. Adelina’s shifting silver grey hair is like a honing beacon, while Enzo’s blood red hair is sinister and off-putting. Furthermore, their other marks are remnants of pain and violence, and they both attempt to hide them from the world. Adelina frequently covers the scar tissue of her lost eye with her hair and Enzo covers his charred, scarred hands with his blood-speckled gloves. Only time will tell if internal parallels accompany these physical ones.