December 27, 2013

Title: Defy

Series: Defy, Book One

Author: Sara B. Larson ♥ @SaraBLarson

Expected Publication: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 336

Source: NetGalley

Summary from Goodreads: 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?

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 12/23/2013): 3.79

  • Christina thought this title was a good fantasy. It goes on her third shelf.

**SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Initial Thoughts and Rating: Solid 3-3.5 star read! This was definitely a decent book as far as fantasy goes, but I don’t think I loved it as much as a few of my blogger friends did. (And admittedly, this may have every reason to do with me picking it up here and there between wrapping gifts and doing crazy holiday stuff, so maybe I just wasn’t able to ever really immersed in the book.) I liked the premise of the novel and really loved that a girl could kick as much ass as a boy and even do it better. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the love triangle in this story. I’m also not quite sure where this will go as a series beyond the love interest conflict because this ended in a relatively good place.

The Lowdown: Alexa Hollen is an young, excellent swordsman, fighter, and all-around badass guard to the Crown Prince. She’s a rough and tough girl that can run with the baddest guys, only… they don’t exactly know that she’s a female. Due to certain circumstances that are forced upon young ladies because of the kingdom she lives in and King Henry’s tyranny, it was obligatory for Alexa to keep up a facade that she’s a guy in order to stay out of the breeding houses filled with young girls and women used to serve as sex slaves for the nation’s army.

But when a powerful sorcerer makes a move on Prince Damian, Alex soon learns that even as skillful as she is, she’s no good against a guy wielding magic as a weapon. Needless to say, her, Prince Damian, and fellow guard and friend, Rylan, are all captured by these palace intruders and taken as prisoners of war. However, Alex discovers quickly that everyone and everything she thought she knew isn’t exactly who or what she thought they were. Secrets are revealed, and among those are that Prince Damian and Rylan both know her true identity and gender and they both have romantic feelings for her. But the restoration of her kingdom and peace in all surrounding areas sets on her shoulders, Alexa must learn to use her love for both of them and all her friends to win a war she never knew she was fighting in.

My Thoughts: I was immediately intrigued by Alexa’s role in the story and thought she was portrayed perfectly, exuding confidence and poise, layered with the emotional distress that someone in her situation would probably exhibit. In fact, I liked all the characters that I was supposed to like and hated all the ones that I was supposed to hate. They all felt multifaceted and their actions were heavily tied to their environment which made them really believable. There were other elements of the plot that worked for me as well such as the backstory of how the king rose to power, all the sorcery that was involved, several plot twists that managed to surprise me, and what motivated the characters to take such drastic actions to make sure that the outcome worked in their favor.

Yet, there were other aspects of the story that didn’t work for me at all. Probably the biggest issue I had with the book is that the plot felt very bare-boned and lacked a lot of depth in my opinion. I’m sure that a most of the details about the world and all the problems that plague it could be addressed in the later books in the series, but it all felt very hollow to me in this particular book. Simply put, I wanted more from it. Another problem that bugged me was the introduction of the love triangle that never felt like much of one to me at all. Rylan and Prince Damian both were likable characters, but I never felt the spark of chemistry with Alexa as much as I wanted to, and that made it difficult to root for either of the could-be romances with them. My last little issue with it was that I felt like the pacing dragged in some places, mostly in the middle. It made it easier for me to keep putting the book down, which I feel like hindered my whole reading experience.

Rec It? I say if you really like fantasy, then you should give this one a go; it couldn’t really hurt. Though, compared to the other amazing fantasies I’ve read this year (Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas and Siege and Storm (The Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo immediately come to mind), I simply couldn’t rate this as high as those because it really doesn’t compare. That being said, it really was a creative plot and I mostly enjoyed getting to watch Alexa kick some boys’ butts.

 A very special thanks to Scholastic and Net Galley for allowing me to preview an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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