This action-packed, emotionally rich debut is a real page turner. Readers will be instantly captivated by Alexa, the heroine, as well as by the vivid fantasy world full of danger, intrigue, and magic. Strong, capable prose and a fast-moving plot will keep readers engaged.
Alexa makes for a compelling heroine. She's an incredible fighter, and there are valid reasons for her skills that go beyond her hours of training. She's also loyal, sometimes insecure, and in touch with her emotions even while her situation demands that she work to mask her feelings. I appreciated that Alexa's emotional arc felt authentic to a teen girl in her particular situation and that her emotional growth wasn't neglected in the face of the story's suspenseful plot. Prince Damien's character also stands out as an intriguing, compelling character who will captivate readers. The other supporting characters, while not as fully realized, still contribute to the sense of a complete cast of diverse people struggling to achieve their goals.
The world is well built, and I really enjoyed reading about a fantasy kingdom (complete with sorcerers) that is set in a jungle. The author makes full use of the dangers and delights in this unusual fantasy setting. The culture is well established, the war and the effects of the war are delivered in stark reality without overshadowing the story, and the author does what only the best fantasy authors are capable of doing: she creates an intimate story told on an epic scale.
The plot has enough twists and revealed secrets to keep the reader turning the pages, and the stakes continue to rise so that readers are fully invested in the climax of the story by the time we get there. The author isn't afraid to hurt her characters, and that made for a nail-biting conclusion.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I love romance entwined with the quest in fantasy novels, and there is plenty of romance in this book. There is a very definite love triangle, and at times I felt the focus on the love triangle slowed the pacing of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed many aspects of the romance, and I think readers who love a strong dose of romance or enjoy a love triangle that is authentically established will swoon over many of the passages of this book. Readers who don't care for a strong focus on romance in their fantasy books may have trouble with a few chapters during the middle of the book.
An intriguing world, an exciting conflict, an enigmatic prince, and a heroine worth rooting for make DEFY a must-read for fans of romantic fantasy adventures.