January 23, 2014

Review: Defy

Defy (Defy, book 1) by Sara B. Larson


Genre: Romantic Fantasy Young Adult
Edition Reviewed: eBook
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Goodreads: Defy

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?


With the title and book summary I went into Defy thinking it would be reminiscent of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series. Epic/high fantasy gender benders are a guilty pleasure of mine. Up front I knew it would attack the genre from a heavily romantic angle. Sadly the world and plot ended up suffering greatly. Even worse is that the romance isn't good. After deluding myself for about 44% of the book I couldn't keep lying to myself. It was terrible. And Alex was a crap main lead. Girl be dumb.

Alex (AKA Alexa). The fact that she had to disguise herself as a man to avoid the king's Breeding House—which I'll get into—made me believe I'd get a strong female lead. Flawed of course, all great characters are. However, what I found was a man hungry ninny. Sure she's the best of the best with a weapon, and they say she practices like crazy. Yet I read more about her checking out all of the guards she worked with and Prince Damian. Even though Damian was nothing but a spoiled jerk, it's OK to admire the man candy. Then she'd constantly remind herself that she was a girl (yeah, doubt she or the readers could forget that). In the next breath would go: “I can't believe I was checking a guy out. I'd never allow myself to do that.” When she finally admits to herself she's checking certain men out the way a woman would, she calls herself a harlot. Alex is confused and doesn't no who she really is because she has to dress up as a man. Really!

It's understandable that any woman, no matter how booty-kicking amazing she is, wants to be looked at as a woman. What I couldn't understand is how Alex couldn't know how brave and strong she is. Larson did almost everything she could to turn Alex into a damsel. One who never even decided that she should question a King that would order orphaned girls to be raped again and again to make soldiers—and more breeders—for his army in the Breeding House. Or to try and figure out what kind of plots Prince Damian was scheming. Her brother Marcel said he was the brains of the twin’s operation, and he wasn't kidding. Which was probably why he got the axe so fast. The fact that Alex doesn't even properly grieve his death was just another killing blow against her.

Now for the love story, which is basically the entirety of Defy. Rylan. Oh, poor Rylan. He's given the role of best-friend. One that Alex trusts to have her back no questions asked. Even after it's revealed that he knew the whole time that she was a girl (no I'm not spoiling anything the book is that freaking transparent) Alex doesn't care one wit. Then Rylan is hot and cold, mood swings all over the place, and get's put in as the third-jealous-lame part of the triangle. Prince Damian of course starts winning over Alex from the get go. Because just after a few days Alex starts to see the true Damian. Or does she? Damian continually lies and holds back things, wants Alex to divulge her darkest secret and never really gives her anything that could justify the romance taking place. All of these sides of the love triangle have doubts about each other, can't seem to really share anything, and the mood swings started to make me dizzy. Most of the book takes place with Damian, Rylan, and Alex being kidnapped and dragged onto enemy lands. Of course Larson does everything to make Damian swoon worthy. In Alex's own words this is how that whole journey could be described:

“Every night I had to lie between the two of them, feeling like I was being torn apart inside.”

No girl. I was being torn up. Scratch that. Shredded. It needs to be said that Defy makes an attempt to have an ambitious plot. All of the “nudges” pretty much give everything away and the real meat of the world and “defiance” part of the book takes place in the last 20%. The Breeding Houses were such a dark and daring place to go with this book, and they just felt like crutches to make readers dislike the evil king! When Alex finally has a chance to help her people Damian actually has to pull her aside and pump her up. Remind her that she lost her brother, her mother and father, and all the girls in those breeding houses to this war. *Palms face.* There was no world building or plot to hold up the rest of the book!

Maybe if the writing was stronger Defy could have held on by a thread. Alas, the writing was poor at best.  It couldn't pull me in enough to care or get involved, especially with all the terrible characters. Standard fantasy cast? Check. Damsel warrior woman? Check. Two horrid sides to an undeveloped—and poorly thought out—love triangle? Oh, check. The problem is that Defy is at it’s heart a romance, relying strictly on the merits of a romance. As said the romantic story isn’t good! No world building and an after thought of a plot. In the end the writing couldn’t save the lack of all three of the key elements of a good story. There's no doubt in my mind that this series will definitely get a fan base. Heck, it's already slated for book 2. Though I can't see this story going anywhere. Even with hints that Alex needs to find out who really killed her parents. Yatta-yatta-yawn. For fans who live and breath this genre, it's best to stay away.

Sexual Content: Rape is talked about and mentioned, not in depth. Sexual humor and some mild making out.

1/5- I couldn't finish it or wish I hadn't

Previous book(s) in series:
Reviewed on BW: Amazon: Goodreads:
Defy (1)
Untitled (2)
Defy (1)
Untitled (2)
Defy (1)
Untitled (2)

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