A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.
The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
Defy (Defy #1)FeaturedHot
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.
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.
The synopsis of this book immediately caught my attention. I am a sucker for the protagonist hiding their true selves to survive trope. The author did a good job at conveying this trope and the circumstances that lead Alexa to hide her true identity. I fell in love with this book from the very beginning. The book was just so beautifully written that it left me eagerly anticipating what will happen in in the rest of the series.
One of the most striking aspects of this book was just how eloquent Larson's writing style is. I would often find myself re-reading passages, not because I was confused, but because of how vivid and powerful the passage was. Larson's truly has a poignant way of writing about a difficult subject matter that is both beautiful and impactful for the reader
The author's writing style also lent itself to the creation of a beautiful world. Larson created an amazing and vivid world that the reader could easily visualize. She really hit the sweet spot when it came to world-building; it never felt lacking nor did it ever feel like the descriptions were overdone, as can be the case with some fantasy novels.
The only negative I had for this novel was the love triangle. I personally am not a fan of love triangles, however, I do recognize that there are cases where they can be executed well, but for me, this was not one of them. The love triangle felt cheesy, forced, and altogether unnecessary to the plot. Moreover, the triangle didn't even feel like a true love triangle. It was pretty apparent to both the main character and the reader who she would end up with, there was never a real inner struggle as to who she would choose, instead, it was more of an unrequited love situation than a true love triangle. For those who either, love a cheesy romance or can look past it, this book would be a good choice. There are so many good things about this novel, that I was able to look past the cheesy love interest and enjoy it for everything else it brought to the table.
Featured on my blog here: http://thebibliohphile.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/defy-by-sara-b-larson/
I’d like to believe this book simply wasn’t for me, but that would be a lie. I am a huge fan of anything fantasy, and Defy had the potential to be something great – and then fell awfully flat.
The story follows Alexa, a girl who pretends to be a boy to escape the breeding houses of her kingdom and join the army instead. Alexa’s a really good fighter, even better than her twin brother Marcel. In fact, even though she’s only seventeen, she’s one of the best of her unit, which is the prince’s guard. As their kingdom’s war with another gets worse by the day, Alexa finds more about the political tension that actually surrounds the king, culminating in her being kidnapped along with the prince and her friend (who’s also a guard). They journey through a deadly jungle and then Alexa learns more about the political tension. And then Alexa finds out she’s special.
Yes. That’s the plot.
There are so many things that are wrong with this book. Like the breeding houses – of course, our main characters don’t support what they’re used for, but rape is basically a plot device here. That avenue could have been explored so much better, but really, all the breeding houses are just (a) a reason for Alexa to pretend she’s a dude and (b) a source for Alexa-angst. Just… no.
Then there’s the matter of her being a boy. She’s just plain bad at it, and I’m saying even worse than Amanda Bynes’s character in She’s The Man. That bad. I have no idea how she survived three whole years doing it, because that’s absolutely unbelievable given how she acts. Honestly speaking, if I’d been anyone who observed her closely, I would’ve known there was something off (no wonder it turns out that half the world knew). The book makes it look like she’s just started this act. What’s worse is that not only did a whole bunch of people know she’s a girl, but they did nothing about it. I guess this was supposed to imply that there’s really no difference between girls and boys, etc. etc., but in a kingdom which is so obviously gender-biased, why did no one care about her identity? At the very least, the boys who loooove her ought to have said something, because if she was found out she would be sent to the breeding houses – and that’s a very real danger that no one except Alexa ever seems to worry about. That actually makes it look like rape isn’t all that bad, if it didn’t deserve some sort of warning. And actually, as more people find out she’s a girl, she doesn’t act more like one – she cries more often, she thinks about boys more often, she doesn’t train regularly (this was something I was wondering about the entire book – a guard who’s supposed to be the best of the best ought to stay in form). That’s not acting more like a girl because the game is up anyway, it’s acting like the stereotype of a girl. And all that was just off the top of my head.
The book was all right in the beginning, but as soon as Alexa, Rylan, and Prince Damian are abducted, it falls apart like a card house in an earthquake. The world building is pitiful here. All I know about Antion is that it has jungle. Just a random mention of tropical fruits here and there. All I know about sorcery is that sometimes it’s black, and then it involves demons and summoning fire. There’s nothing quite so sad as underdeveloped magic, and this book is a grade A example of that. How does the sorcery work? Why do questions like this never occur to the characters? If the concept is already out there, and the characters knew all about sorcery, then it would make sense not to go too deep into it. But Alexa knows next to nothing about this, except that she can’t defeat it. To someone who’s trained as a guard, wouldn’t it be logical to find out about the sorcery before trying to best it head on? In the summary, Alexa ‘uses her quick wit’. WHAT QUICK WIT, I ASK YOU? Oh. No. Wait, Alexa is special, she can do it anyway. Alexa finds out that so many people close to her are involved with sorcery, but she never, ever pauses to consider how it works.
Notice that I didn’t mention the love triangle – because it made me so irritated I’m going to have to dedicate an entire paragraph to it. The reason the plot failed for me in the aforementioned earthquake was the love triangle. The entire jaunt through the jungle is about the love triangle, literally. There’s nothing about why she’s being abducted, or where they’re going – if you were abducted, would you quietly follow along and ponder your tragic love life? That’s what Alexa is doing. She doesn’t make any attempt to find out what’s going on, but she just listens to what Prince Damian tells her. How does that sound like a strong heroine in any way? And then there’s the actual love triangle, which is so improbable that I was rolling my eyes. You’re telling me that Alexa has to choose between the guy she’s trusted and had a crush on forever, and the prince who was a snobby brat all the time but was secretly not-so-snobby? You’re telling me Alexa had to choose between one of her closest friends and someone who manipulates her throughout the book? I love bad boys, but this is stretching it. Alexa and Damian not only make no sense at all, but she literally starts falling for him after she saw him shirtless. All it takes is a flash of those pecs. It was so illogical.
The action at the end doesn’t make up for any of the horrors that the reader has to endure throughout the book. In fact, I would’ve understood the action at the end better if not for the fact that I didn’t understand the sorcery at all. It’s upsetting because Defy could’ve been really good, but I think it has far too many holes for me.
I will probably not be reading the second book in the series.
I received this book as a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not in any way affect my judgment or opinions of the book. I’m also not being paid for this.
The author also made the conflict a big part of the book in such a way that it wasn’t a background to the love triangle. The triangle was an important part, but it didn’t overshadow the plot and make the reader lose focus. This book had an amazing depth and really immersed me in this new world. The author also managed to reveal surprise after surprise into the book and it was done in such a way to surprise the reader but flow with the story.
Alexa & Damian & Rylan. I loved Alexa’s bravery in her disguise. She didn’t allow anyone to doubt her or think of her less than she is, and always pushed herself past her breaking point. it was great to read about a character that had her own strength (outside and inside) and was able to defend herself. It made for an interesting read and allowed her character to interact with Damian and Rylan because she was able to react and interact with them in a different way than if she was “weak”.
I fell in love with Damian in this novel! I loved how he was defensive, sweet, and yet so secretive that it intrigued me and it intrigued Alexa. I also thought that it was great of how he acted around Alexa, almost like he was trying to stop himself from falling for her.
Rylan was great because he always seemed to be there when Alexa needed it. He also seemed to know more about Alexa than others did and I loved how he used it to protect her (even if she didn’t need it).
Other Characters. One of the characters that really added to the book was Damian’s father! He added so much suspense to the book and the way he affected the characters of the book really brought the emotions of the book to an all level high and allowed the characters to develop the bonds that they did.
The End. I loved how the book ended and how parts of the conflict were resolved. I would love to read a continuation of this book and other books by this author.
The story begins with a devastating scene that leaves our young protagonist scrambling to survive. Her survival is dependent on keeping her gender secret. Hello, Alanna (from an old favorite). There is plenty of action, and I love that Alex is a better fighter than the men in the book. She is so fierce.
There is also an obvious-- and sometimes annoying-- partial love triangle thing going on. She flitters between two main guys and it gets a bet irritating at time. Especially since one of the guys does an awful lot of pouting about it. Not very manly. She also doesn't seem to know which guy she prefers. At times, she was very wishy washy. I'm curious to see how the romance plays out in future books, but I have a feeling I already know. We shall see.
As for the writing, I think Defy was a great debut. The world building is very detailed. There are wizards and tons of secrets mixed in with a healthy dose of magic. If you're a fantasy lover, this will appeal to you.