I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Defy #1
Published by Scholastic Press on January 7, 2014
Source: the publisher
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.
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 had so much potential to be a great high fantasy read, but the romance overtook it and the rest of the plot took a back-seat. Honestly, I was scared to read this book after the negative reviews I had read. I tried to push those reviews to the back of my mind and I tried to go into this book with a clear head. Overall, it wasn’t an awful read. It was still enjoyable, but the negative parts were too negative to be ignored.
One of the biggest positives for this book? Sara B. Larson is a stunning writer. Her prose was beautiful and flowed nicely. She was descriptive and vivid and I could see everything perfectly in my mind.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to like a character’s voice, but not like the character. If it is, then that’s how I felt with Alexa. I didn’t dislike her, necessarily. But I certainly didn’t like her. There was nothing about her that stood out, nothing that made me want to cheer for her, to see her succeed. I very rarely felt bad for her. She was VERY repetitive – There was a certain revelation between her, Damian and Rylan. And once that revelation was known, Alexa constantly brought it up. I know that’s kind of vague, but it’s a big spoiler if I say more. But it was something that she just kept harping on and saying over and over, every time Damian or Rylan did something she didn’t like. There’s also a LOT of useless inner monologue and thought.
I loved Damian. He was an awesome character. I should have hated him, because he was very cocky and slightly full of himself. He even admits at one point that he’s a spoiled brat. But there was something about him that drew me to him, especially when he let his guard down. In those moments, we saw the real Damian.
I hated Rylan. I just did. He was so unnecessary, it was almost laughable. The love triangle was so forced. This book did NOT need a love triangle. Some books work well with love triangles and some books just DON’T need it. Defy did NOT need it. Rylan didn’t even do anything – He was like Damian’s shadow – he did the things Damian did AFTER Damian did them – like running after Alexa after she had stormed away. Damian got there first and it took a good 5-10 minutes before Rylan showed up, like it was an after-thought.
The deaths in this book were pretty devastating. Two of my favorite characters were killed – one very early on. That definitely made me sad. There were some very powerful moments in Defy, though. Some very touching, some very emotional. Those moments definitely made some of the other things a little more.. tolerable. But not completely. The ways in which we were shown the King’s cruelty were.. despicable, overdone and – I’m using this word a lot in this review – unnecessary.
There were a lot of revelations near the end, some of which I had a feeling about and some that took me by surprise. One revelation at the very, very end.. Well, I expected more of a reaction from a few people when something was revealed, and we didn’t get that reaction. So that was unfortunate.
The ending did not need to be left open for a sequel – and there is a sequel, apparently. Everything could have been wrapped up perfectly. This book reads like a stand-alone and would have been perfect as a stand-alone. The only thing left hanging was the love triangle.. Which was unnecessary and annoying.. And that could have been wrapped up in Defy, too. So.. See where I’m going with this?
I know some people loved Defy. So I’m not going to say I wouldn’t recommend it – I’m sure there are some people who will love what I hated. Especially those who love books that focus on the romance. But I won’t be going out of my way to recommend it, either. And I likely won’t bother reading the sequel.