Chapter 24: Adelina
Adelina hustles through the night towards the Inquisition Axis Tower. As she goes, she hears people shouting that the king is dead, wishing the queen a long life. Aghast, Adelina wonders if the Daggers made their move tonight after all but quickly dismisses this speculation. A voice in her head whispers that Teren is somehow evolved in Giulietta’s unforeseen accession to the throne.
When Adelina reaches the tower, the guards let her in but apprehend her until Teren returns. His absence from the towers gets Adelina’s mind whirling. She wonders where he might be keeping Violetta. After a while, the sounds of shattering glass and general chaos come from outside the tower. As Adelina turns towards the windows to investigate, Teren returns. He confirms that the king is dead, killed by a sudden illness. Adelina finds this suspicious, but directs their conversation towards her sister. She demands to see Violetta before she tells Teren anything. Teren seems impressed with her newfound bravery in his presence, and acquiesces. Victorious, Adelina begins to gather her energy together, intent on leaving the tower with her sister in tow.
Adelina, Teren, and some Inquisition officers head toward the dungeons. As they descend, Adelina almost becomes overwhelmed by the amount of fear and anger concentrated in Teren’s holding cells. They surge around her, begging for use. Finally, they reach Violetta’s cell. When she sees her sister Adelina feels a mix of joy, love, hate, and envy. His end of the bargain upheld, Teren asks Adelina for the names of Daggers. In her head, she imagines getting her revenge on Dante, Enzo, Michel, Lucent, and Gemma by confesses all she knows about them. Despite the voice insider her head prodding her to spill the beans, Adelina remains silent.
Again, Teren remarks on Adelina’s new fortitude. He changes his interrogation tactics and attempts to sway Adelina against the Daggers. Some of what he says, such as his accurate guess that the Daggers don’t trust her, or his belief that the Daggers only saved her because she had something they wanted, resonates with Adelina. He tells the allegory of the angelic brothers Denarius and Laetes and compares the presence of malfettos on Earth to the imbalance that was created when Laetes was cast from the heavens. He describes himself as being charged with restoring balance to the world by ridding it of malfettos, and tells Adelina he thinks she’s here for the same reason. He says he senses the self-hatred buried inside of her, and that the only way for her to absolve herself is to help him return malfettos to the Underworld.
At first, Adelina seems to be swayed by Teren’s words. She affirms that she is an abomination, and her father’s ghost whispers to her that he still loves her, although she is a monster. Sensing her resolve crumbling, Teren offers her money, power, and respect if she joins him. In a moment of frailty, he groups himself with other malfettos and says that they are not supposed to exist. Adelina finds herself agreeing with him, but for some reason still cannot betray the Daggers. In this moment she remembers Dante’s hatred, but also Enzo’s gentle expressions, Gemma’s friendship, Raffaele’s faithfulness, etc. She realizes that while the Daggers may be using her, Teren is using her as well, and that in the end she isn’t protecting the Daggers but rather is refusing to be used anymore.
Teren sighs, realizing Adelina’s made her choice. Just as he orders his officers to attack Violetta, Adelina uses her powers to make herself and her sister invisible. She wraps each of the guards in nightmarish illusions that debilitate them. She attempts to use her powers on Teren, but hits a wall, hard and impregnable, that shields his energy from her own. All seems lost, until Violetta takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. Suddenly, Teren gasps, and falls to the ground. The wall around his energy lies in metaphorical tatters around his feet and Adelina is able to manipulate his threads of energy just like anyone else’s. Someone has tampered with his powers. In this moment, Adelina realizes the unimaginable: Violetta is a Young Elite.
Both their powers waning in the face of their exhaustion, the sisters work together quickly and escape the tower, with Teren cackling like a madman behind them. They escape into the Estenzian night air, only to see it’s a scene of chaos. All around them, Inquisition officers are dragging malfettos out of their homes, beating them, and putting them in chains. As they watch, an Inquisition officer kills a young malfetto woman right in front of them. Adelina uses the pain, evil, and darkness of their surroundings to create a protective illusion of calm around Violetta. She tells Violetta that they must go to the catacombs below the city. They turn a corner, intending to make a break for it, and run straight into Dante, who’s been looking for Adelina.
Chapter 25: Adelina
Having followed her from the court, Dante saw Adelina enter the Inquisition Tower and assumes the worst. He begins to attack Adelina, not allowing her to explain herself. Every time she begins to tell him what’s been happening with Teren, he interrupts her with his own twisted interpretation of events. In the middle of his one-way interrogation of Adelina, he lets slip that the palace has captured Raffaele. Horrified and worried about Raffaele, Adelina is distracted when Dante lunges for her again. He holds her to the ground and chokes her as he says he’s taking her to Enzo.
The line between illusion and reality begins to blur in Adelina’s mind. The darkness she felt before she left the Daggers to rescue Violetta begins to build up again, aided by her hatred of Dante, the violence of the Inquisitors, and the terror of the people in the streets. Instead of Dante choking her, she sees her father doing it instead. Thinking that she has had enough, she reaches out with her powers to tug on Dante’s pain senses. He lets her go and makes a bloodcurdling scream that excites Adelina. She has wanted to create illusions of pain for a while. As she tortures Dante, part of her is horrified at her actions, while the other delights in them. Violetta looks on, horrified, but does not use her powers to stop her sister.
In Adelina’s mind, Dante becomes her father again. She twists his threads of energy harder and harder, until Dante/her father begs her to stop. The darkness has taken over completely at this point; the good side of Adelina has no control. Something snaps in Dante’s heart, and a trickle of real blood seeps from his mouth. He falls silent and stops writhing on the ground. In her fury and by using her illusions, Adelina has killed him.
Chapter 26: Adelina
Adelina and Violetta stay in the alleyway with Dante’s body for hours, listening as scores of Inquisition officers go by. Time looses meaning as her memory of killing Dante fades in and out. Eventually Violetta rouses her and tells her they must go. Adelina takes them in the direction of Fortunata Court, intending to confess everything to Enzo. As they run, they come across an Inquisition officer abusing a malfetto woman. Just as he’s about to deliver a blow, a gust of wind wrenches him into the sky. Adelina realizes that the Daggers are nearby, helping the malfettos without powers. She fears they will find her, but she and Violetta make it to Fortunata undetected, only to find it ransacked and the other Daggers gone.
Chapter 27: Adelina
With Fortunata destroyed, Adelina takes Violetta to the catacombs, the only other place she feels safe in the city. The two are down there for a full day before Adelina asks Violetta about her time as Teren’s prisoner, and if he knew about her powers. Violetta says no, but that she knew about her powers since they were children, when their father broke Adelina’s finger. During that episode she could sense something in Adelina yearning to strike back, and she instinctively used her own powers to push back against Adelina’s. Adelina speculates this is what Raffaele was speaking of when he said there was something dark and bitter inside of her that had been repressed for years. He was sensing the repercussions of Violetta suppressing Adelina’s powers during their childhood.
Adelina says she wants to see Violetta take her powers away. The moment she does, Adelina feels it immediately. If feels as if her lungs are being compressed, as if her lifeblood is being drained. After having full use of her powers, not having them for even a few moments is unbearable. She whispers for Violetta to give them back. When Violetta does, Adelina is hit with a rush of darkness, sweet and addictive, and relishes the power coursing through her body. Her mind whirls with all the possibilities Violetta’s ability to dominate over all other malfettos presents.
As she comes to terms with Violetta’ revelation, Adelina’s shock turns to anger. She is upset that Violetta allowed her to suffer their father’s wrath alone, that she kept her abilities a secret. Violetta defends herself by saying it was her way of protecting herself. Adelina is hit with a rush of understanding. In order to protect herself, Violetta wore a façade of sweetness and naivety, secure in the knowledge that people protect the things they like. She saw how their father treated Adelina because he knew she was a malfetto, and hid her powers in order to escape the same fate. Adelina accuses Violetta of leaving her to fend for herself, and all Violetta can do is apologize.
The sisters sit in silence for a while until Violetta says that she is glad Adelina killed their father. This confession unravels the tight knot in Adelina’s chest.
From above ground comes the sound of a tolling bell at the Inquisition Tower. Adelina guesses that Teren is about to make an announcement, and leads them above ground to investigate. They dodge Inquisitors until they make it to the main square. Just as they arrive, Teren takes the stage and he’s not alone. His Inquisition officers drag a ragged Raffaele with them. At the sight Adelina’s heart contracts and she blames herself for Raffaele’s imprisonment. She also begins to the put the pieces together, realizing who is really behind the king’s death.
Teren announces that henceforth malfettos are banned from Estenzia and that they will be moved to the city’s outskirts and separated from society. Anyone that turns in a malfetto will be rewarded with gold, and anyone found harboring malfettos will be punished by death.
At these announcements, the crowd goes wild. Adelina tries to think of a way to save Raffaele but comes up short. Violetta then tells her she senses four other Elites in the area. Adelina realizes that Enzo and the other Daggers are nearby. Teren seems to sense something as well and begins to address his words directly to “the Reaper.” He’s trying to lure Enzo and the rest of the Dagger Society out of hiding. He offers up a deal. If Enzo reveals himself, Teren won’t kill Raffaele right now in front of everyone. As Adelina thinks there’s no way Enzo will take the bait, people in the crowd begin to shout. Enzo has appeared, wearing his Dagger mask. He challenges Teren to a fight to the death in exchange for Raffaele’s freedom. Teren agrees, and they set the duel for the morning of the king’s funeral.
Chapter 28: Adelina
Adelina takes Violetta back to the catacombs, where they wait for night to fall before following the Daggers. Violetta uses her powers to track their energies across the city. She leads them to the university, one of the safe houses of the Dagger Society. As they make their way, Adelina tries to convince herself that she can still be one of them, and that she can still belong with them.
When they reach the university, Adelina uses a secret entrance to get them inside. They follow Lucent’s voice to the university’s main temple, where she, Enzo, Gemma, and Michel are having a meeting. Everyone freezes at the sight of one another.
The scene cuts to them all sitting in Adelina’s and Violetta’s new quarters in the university building. Lucent begins the interrogation, asking where Adelina has been. She tells them that Teren has been keeping her sister a prisoner in the Inquisition Tower, and that she went to save her. When Enzo asks her when she first crossed paths with Teren, Adelina lies and says the Spring Moons festival. Michel asks why Adelina didn’t confide in them before, and she says because she didn’t think they’d help her. Lucent is suspicious and clearly doesn’t trust Adelina, but the others take her words at face value. Enzo includes her in the plans for tomorrow’s duel against Teren, and asks Adelina directly for her help. When Adelina agrees, the attention shifts to Violetta. Adelina tells the others of Violetta’s ability, and they begin to plot about how they can use it to kill Teren.
Later in the night, Violetta sleeps feverishly while Adelina holds her hand. They’ve been locked in their room purportedly for protection, though Adelina knows its because the other Daggers don’t trust her. She’s longing to step outside for some cool air when someone knocks on her door. It’s Enzo and he invites her to his room so they can talk. He wants to know the reason she ran away, besides her need to rescue Violetta. Adelina reveals she was eavesdropping on him and Dante the night of Dante’s death by asking him if he would have really gotten rid of her. Enzo says no, that he will not hurt her. He also tells her that they found Dante’s body, but gives no indication he knows she was the one to kill him.
As they sit together Adelina realizes that Enzo is afraid about tomorrow. When she asks him, he says that though he is a good fighter, Teren is better. He shares memories from his and Teren’s shared past, remembering a time when Teren didn’t hate malfettos. The conversation drifts to Daphne, Enzo’s lost love. She was an apprentice at the local apothecary that helped malfettos hide their markings with illegal herbs and powders. Enzo doesn’t share how she was killed, and says they must all move forward though it is hard. He draws closer to Adelina and says to her that he knows who she is. Adelina thinks he must be responding to her unspoken accusation that he’s only interested in her because she resembles Daphne. Her senses are awakened at these words, and she responds passionately when he kisses her. Like before, her dark threads intertwine with Enzo’s. He breaks the kiss and asks Adelina to stay the night with him. She agrees and they lay in his bed. Enzo drifts to sleep quickly, Adelina more slowly, her dreams plagued by visions of demons, sisters, fathers, and Teren.
In this penultimate section of chapters several of the major themes and literary elements of the novel appear. The most pertinent of these is the struggle between good and evil, epitomized in the characters of Adelina and Violetta. For the bulk of the book Adelina has been establishing her sister as a foil to herself. Violetta is a perfect beauty, while she is marked. Violetta is innocent and would never harm anyone, while she is dark and uses violence to achieve her desired ends. Violetta is normal, while she is a Young Elite.
It is the falseness of this last juxtaposition that unravels the pat and neat system of comparison Adelina devised. As we learn in Chapter 24, Violetta is ironically a Young Elite, same as her sister. She has known about her abilities for longer than Adelina, and in fact is the reason why Adelina discovered her powers later in life. Violetta managed to keep her own powers a secret while suppressing her sister’s at the same time. In doing this, she displays an adroitness and deviousness that seems incongruent with the sweet, naïve little girl that Adelina’s memories painted. Adelina herself remarks on this new side to her sister. Again she compares herself to her sister, realizing that while she only knew how to antagonize others, Violetta knew how to make other people like her. Adelina only knows how to be herself, while Violetta knows how to be a people-pleaser. Adelina realizes that Violetta is actually quite sly, a trait not commonly associated with “good” people. Thus the line between good and evil becomes a gray area.
Adelina’s internal struggle between good and evil approaches its boiling point in this set of chapters. She resists her overwhelming desire to betray the Daggers to Teren, a move that keeps the darkness at bay. Despite her own belief that her powers are inherently evil because they are fueled by fear and violence, she is able to take the high road and not get revenge for Dante and Enzo’s callous words about her. However, in the face of Dante’s anger and violence, her leash on the darkness slips and her powers move outside the prism of her control. She kills Dante with the illusion of pain, and while part of her is horrified, the other is delighted at this exhibition of power. Time and time again parts of Adelina stand in the light and others are enshrouded in the darkness. The murder of Dante is one instance where Adelina’s dark side won.
Dante’s death scene is a great example of the reality vs. illusion theme as well. When Adelina is torturing Dante with the illusion of pain at some moments she thinks Dante is her father, and that she is punishing her father for past ills. For example, when she asks herself “why should I stop?” she thinks no because Dante “is the boy who told Enzo to kill [her]”(Lu 2014 pp. 485). However, later on in the same paragraph, “[her] father’s image replaces Dante’s again” (ibid.). Although Adelina must know that it is Dante she is torturing and not her father (especially considering that her father has been dead for several weeks now), her version of reality is so warped in these moments that she believes it is her father. This is not the first time Adelina has seen things that aren’t actually there, but it is the first time her inner illusions have dire consequences.
Aside from these two central themes, other important aspects of these chapters are the allegory of Denarius and Laetes and the quandary of protagonist and antagonist. Teren references the story of the angelic brothers when he’s trying to sway Adelina to his crusade against malfettos. Adelina says that she sensed a real note of pain and tragedy when Teren told the tale, suggesting that he truly identified with it. This story seems to be a key motivator for Teren in his vendetta against malfettos because it helps him justify his heinous actions towards those who share his supernatural status. When speaking about his war against malfettos, he likens it to Denarius’s betrayal of Laetes and how Denarius didn’t want to banish his brother, but did this difficult task because it was just. Teren claims he is returning the love of malfettos and saving their souls by killing them.
This self-deluding way of thinking is in part what makes the antagonist (and, thus, the protagonist) of The Young Elites difficult to identify. We could say that Teren is the main antagonist of the book because of his actions against malfettos and our main character, but when his actions are supposedly motivated by his desire to save souls, are they completely evil and the actions of an antagonist? Similarly, Adelina is not your poster-child protagonist. She says and does morally questionable things throughout The Young Elites. While this is a refreshing change from cookie-cutter protagonists of other young adult novels, it does suggest that she is more of “anti-hero” than “hero.”