After a brief epigraph in which a deadly and mysterious illness is discussed, The Young Elites opens in the mythical country of Kenettra with 16 year-old Adelina Amouteru sitting in a prison cell. She has been accused of killing her father, Sir Martino Amouteru. Adelina flashes back to the night of her father’s death and we learn about her dysfunctional relationship with him and her sister, Violetta. Both Adelina and Violetta’s are both survivors of the illness mentioned in the epigraph, now known as the blood fever, but only Adelina bears marks of its ravages on her body.
Adelina’s father arranges to sell her off to an older tradesman. Rather than be sold off like cattle before she if of age, Adelina runs away. Her father catches up to her in the storm and they fight. While they struggle, Adelina produces black nightmarish figures from the earth. These figures startle her father, which causes him to crash into his horse. His horse is what kills him, not Adelina.
While Adelina waits for her unjust judgment day in the Dalia prison, we visit briefly with Enzo Valenciano, who has just received a letter via dove from someone named “The Messenger”. Enzo gives no outward reaction to the contents of the letter, but simply decides its time to move out.
Back in Dalia, time has run out for Adelina. Members of the Inquisition Axis, Kenettra’s police force, enter her cell and take her above ground. There, a jeering crowd awaits, eager to watch her execution. The Lead Inquisitor of Kenettra, Teren Santoro, is present and is the one to set Adelina’s pyre on fire. Before the flames begin to incinerate her, Adelina uses her powers unwittingly again, creating an illusion of locusts in the sky. As the locusts distract the Inquisitors, a masked figure appears on the stage and rescues Adelina.
The masked figure turns out to be the mysterious Enzo from the previous chapter. He tells Adelina that he and his supporters have brought her to Estenzia, the port capital city of Kenettra. Enzo shows Adelina his powers over fire, and tells her he is the leader of a group of Young Elites, called the Dagger Society. He asks Adelina if she would like to join them and punish all those that have wronged her. Adelina agrees and once she is rested begins to train with Raffaele Laurent Bessette, Enzo’s right hand. Raffaele turns out to be “The Messenger”, the person that alerted Enzo to Adelina’s presence in Dalia. Their first exercise together reveals that Adelina’s powers resonate strongly with fear, fury, passion, and ambition. Raffaele is alarmed by these findings and later that day instructs Enzo to kill Adelina before she becomes a serious threat to them all. Enzo disagrees with Raffaele’s decision and decides to keep Adelina around.
The next day Raffaele takes Adelina to meet and be tested by the other Daggers. Two of them, Star Thief and Windwalker, are friendly enough, but one, Spider, is downright hostile to Adelina. She doesn’t yet have control over her powers and is only able to conjure up illusions when she feels her life to be in danger. Still, Enzo sees something in her worth investing in and her training continues.
Back in Teren’s perspective, we learn that he himself is a Young Elite (he the ability to automatically heal himself). We also flashback to his first clandestine meeting with Queen Giulietta of Kenettra (Enzo’s older sister) and see the moment he pledged himself to her and to ridding the world of malfettos. Thinking of his pledge to Giulietta renews Teren’s zest and desire to find Adelina. His tenacity pays off when he gets a tip from a street urchin about Adelina’s whereabouts. The tipster tells Teren that he can find Adelina at Fortunata Court. During a special performance at the court Teren disguises himself as a patron and ambushes Adelina. In exchange for not killing her sister (who he has in his custody) Adelina must give him intelligence on the Daggers. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Adelina unwillingly agrees.
5 days past. Adelina is training with the Daggers in the cavern. Her powers are progressing slowly and she’s frustrated with the slow pace. Spider taunts her and her anger over this fuel her powers. She is able to conjure up the same black figures she made the night her father died, which stops Spider in his tracks. Just as the situation begins to escalate, Raffaele diffuses it. Shortly after Enzo comes and gathers everyone but Adelina for a mission.
Adelina takes advantage of their absence to go have her first meeting with Teren. She manages to dodge many of his questions, but does reveal that the Daggers are planning something for the Tournament of Storms. Teren allows her to leave, but warns her that next time she must be more forthcoming. Instead of going directly back to Fortunata, Adelina follows crowds to the main piazza in Estenzia, where the preliminary horse race for the Tournament of Storms is about to start. One of the competitors is Star Thief. When her name is announced we learn her real name is Lady Gemma of House Salvatore.
Using a combination of her animal powers and Windwalker’s wind abilities, Gemma wins the race. However, just she’s about to collect her price, some Inquisitors come and announce the king’s new decree: malfettos are no longer allowed to compete in the Tournament of Storms. The crowd goes wild at this new edict and someone throws a rock at an Inquisition officer. Unable to find the perpetrator, they decide to punish Gemma as an example. At this, Adelina steps in and creates an illusion of an Elite army surrounding the piazza. Chaos erupts and Gemma is able to get away safely.
Rescue complete, Adelina hurries and tries to sneak back into Fortunata but is discovered by the other Daggers. They aren’t happy with her disobedience, but admit that she is being trained too slowly. Enzo says he will take charge of her training personally. Under Enzo’s tutelage Adelina’s powers and her control over them grow by leaps and bounds. During one of the training sessions the two Young Elites almost kiss. Adelina has trouble deciding if it really almost happened or if it was another of her illusions.
Impressed by the progress Adelina is making, Enzo decides that her first official mission will be their planned attack during Estenzia’s Spring Moons festival. For part one of the mission, Adelina and Enzo go undercover together as a couple attending the festival. They kill the Inquisition officers guarding the ships that carry the fireworks for the festival. Enzo sneaks aboard the ships and one by one blows them up. Mission complete, Adelina attempts to flee the scene but is cornered by Teren. No longer satisfied with her ignorance act, he tells her she has 3 days to bring him useful information or he will kill Violetta.
Because of her successes during the Spring Moons mission, Adelina is officially inducted into the Dagger Society. After her initiation ceremony she attends a soiree with the other Daggers and patrons of the society. The talk at the soiree is mostly about Adelina and the upcoming Tournament of Storms mission. Thinking about everything along with her pact with Teren make Adelina feel unwell, so Enzo escorts her from the party. Alone, the two talk about Teren and his healing abilities before Adelina kisses him. Enzo returns her kiss until eventually Adelina pushes him away. He leaves her and while he goes Adelina thinks now is her chance to confess everything to him. When she follows Enzo to confess however, she overhears him talking to Dante. They are talking about her, and about how none of the Daggers (aside from Enzo) truly like or trust her.
Devastated, Adelina makes her way towards the Inquisition Axis Tower to betray the Daggers to Teren -- who, meanwhile, is at the palace assassinating the king. While Adelina waits for Teren to return to the tower she hears the chaos and madness happening in the streets over the king’s death. When Teren arrives Adelina demands to see Violetta before she tells him anything. Once the sisters are together Adelina tries to break them both out of Teren’s prison. Just when it seems Teren and his forces will kill them Violetta reveals she too is a Young Elite. She has the ability to take away the powers of other Elites. This trump card allows the sisters to make their getaway.
As they escape Teren and his officers they run into Spider, whose real name is Dante. Having followed Adelina from Fortunata, Dante knows she is tied to Teren in some way and is convinced she has betrayed the Daggers. The two of them argue verbally before things get physical. Still anger about his words to Enzo earlier in the night Adelina strikes out with her anger, hatred, and fear. Using the illusion of pain she kills Dante. She and Violetta stay with his body for a few hours before heading back towards Fortunata. They find it ransacked and abandoned.
The sisters take shelter in the catacombs of Estenzia and discuss Violetta’s secret. After a bit noise from above ground draws them to the main square in the city. There, they watch as Teren drags out a captured Raffaele and makes an offer to the Reaper: if they come and reveal themselves he will let Raffaele go. In response to this a masked Enzo walks out of the crowd and challenges Teren to a duel in exchange for Raffaele’s freedom. Teren agrees and they set the duel for the day of the king’s funeral.
Violetta uses her abilities to track down the Daggers at their new headquarters. They have taken refuge at the university in Estenzia. The Daggers are clearly suspicious of Adelina but they need her help too much to cast her off. She shares with them information about Violetta’s ability and they make a plan for Enzo’s duel with Teren.
The day of the duel the Daggers are stationed all over the main piazza. Adelina and Violetta are together, disguised with Adelina’s illusions. Teren enters the piazza with Raffaele in tow and calls for the Reaper to reveal himself. Enzo steps forward and removes his mask, finally revealing his true identity to Teren. The two boys begin to fight. At first Teren has the upper hand because of his healing abilities. After Enzo receives a serious blow from Teren he gives a signal to his Daggers. Two of them strike down the Inquisition officers guarding Raffaele while Gemma swoops in on a balira and rescues him. Meanwhile, Violetta strips Teren of his healing powers and Adelina turns Enzo into a replica of Teren. Slowly the tide begins to turn in Enzo’s favor, until Teren reveals his own trump card. He has thousands of Inquisition officers flood into the piazza and they begin to slaughter Enzo’s supporters.
Teren and Enzo’s fight continues until Violetta’s hold over Teren’s abilities slips. Exhausted, she faints and is rescued from the scene by Michel. Adelina stays and tries to help Enzo with her illusions. Teren notices how close she is to where they are fighting, and attacks her. He slices at her and makes her fall to the ground and hit her head on the hard cobblestones. Disoriented, Adelina strikes out with her illusion of pain at Enzo, believing him to be Teren. This causes Enzo to fall to his knees. Teren takes advantage of this and delivers a killing blow. Adelina quickly realizes her mistake, but it’s too late. Enzo dies.
The remaining Daggers come and rescue Adelina. Now led by Raffaele, they interrogate her and ask her for the truth from the beginning. Adelina confesses everything, including her murder of Dante and her coercive relationship with Teren. After she is done speaking Raffaele reveals that he feared this happening all along, which is why he had advised Enzo to kill her. He casts Adelina out of the Dagger Society and leaves her. Just before he goes, he tells her that he loved Enzo too.
Bereft, Adelina starts to cut her hair off in a frenzy of emotions. Violetta finds her and soothes her. She reminds Adelina that despite everything, she has always had Adelina’s back. This comforts Adelina, who resolves to form her own society and get revenge on Teren.
Meanwhile news of what has transpired in Estenzia reaches the court of Princess Maeve Corrigan in Beldain. Maeve laments the death of Enzo because she fears it will slow down her own plans for Kenettra, but decides that perhaps it doesn't matter after all. She begins to mobilize her own society of Elites and her brother Tristan, her own personal weapon. After Maeve brought him back to life, Tristan only listens to her orders. With her forces in tow, Maeve sets her sights on Kenettra.