Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Title: Defy (Defy #1)
Author: Sara B. Larson
Release date: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 341
Source: NetGalley

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?

I'm really loving YA fantasy at the moment, and I had high expectations for Defy. The premise sounded amazing - a girl disguising herself as a guy to fight in the army sounds pretty kickass. I did enjoy reading this at times, but there were so many things I had problems with, and they definitely dampened my enjoyment of the novel, and it ended up being a disappointment.

Alexa's parents were killed by a sorcerer three years ago, and she decided to cut off her hair and disguise herself as a boy so she can serve in the army alongside her twin brother, Marcel. The only other option she had was to be sent to the breeding house, and there's no way she would've allowed that. Alexa poses as Alex for three years, and becomes the best fighter in the army and a member of Prince Damian's personal guard. But as the war gets more serious and assassination attempts are made on the prince, things get dangerous. The prince is kidnapped along with Alex and Rylan, another guard and Alex's best friend. But as they are taken to the enemy kingdom, Alex realizes there are secrets all around her, and her own secret isn't safe anymore.

I'm not a fan of love triangles, but I didn't think this one would really bother me. I was wrong. This book has so much potential, being a fantasy novel with a great premise, but the love triangle and romance took over so much of it. There were moments where it was just about which guy Alex should pick, and that really bugged me. If the novel was more plot-driven than romance-driven, it would have made a way better impact.

I loved Alex initially - she's the only girl and the youngest on the guard and yet she's the best there is. No one can beat her. She's incredibly skilled and really strong. She's also very compassionate. Though she's been masquerading as a boy for three years, she's still a girl inside and it helped me connect with her. But it's when her identity is revealed that she got annoying. Just because people know she's a girl doesn't mean she suddenly has to change the way she acts! She became a simpering girl, a far cry from the warrior she was. The change is pretty drastic and it made her pretty unrecognizable. Another thing that really bugged me about her is that all she could think about were the two boys' physiques. Honestly, I wanted to roll my eyes half the time. There was this one point where Damian was having a really bad nightmare, and Alex goes in to maybe wake him up. Even though the guy's clearly in distress, all Alex does is stand there and admire his chest muscles. Are you kidding me? Ugh.

I'm sorry if this review is quite ranty but I can't help it. The two guys didn't really impress me, either. Let's start with Damian. Initially I disliked him because he was simply described as lazy and arrogant. But later on we discover that that's not who he really is, and he has a lot of surprises up his sleeve. I did like him, and I think his character has a lot of potential.

I liked Rylan too, but we don't really get to see much of him. Except after he tells Alex that he knows she's a girl, and he tries winning her heart. I liked his character in the beginning, and it's obvious he really cares about Alex. But he struck me as really desperate later on. I get that he doesn't want her to get hurt, but honestly some of his actions seemed a little unrealistic to me. And there's this one thing he and Damian have in common that I really didn't like - both of them treat Alex like she's some helpless chick after they tell her they know she's a girl. Just because her secret's out there, they completely change the way they act around her, and think she needs protecting. She's the best fighter in the guard, for crying out loud! I'm pretty sure she can take care of herself. Seriously, the amount of times the guys said something along the lines of "I won't let anything hurt you"... It really got on my nerves.

I haven't read too many fantasy novels, but even I could tell the world building wasn't really exceptional. There wasn't enough of it, and it left me with a lot of unanswered questions as to how certain things came about. Also, the entire concept of the breeding house not only repulsed me, but confused me too. If the king needs soldiers in the current war, breeding kids will only begin to pay off in about ten years. Also, they're stuffing every girl they can find in that cramped house and forcing them to become pregnant in dilapidated conditions. Well, I'm pretty sure taking care of a bunch of babies takes time, effort and supplies, especially if the king wants them to be healthy enough to fight. There's absolutely nothing mentioned about babies, only girls getting raped. Which brings me to another issue - I've never come across something like that in YA fiction, and I highly doubt it's appropriate for lower YA.

Okay I think my ranting has gone on a bit too long. And now after thinking about the novel while writing my review, I'm going to have to lower my rating. There were just too many things that I couldn't get past while reading this book. And that really sucks, because I really wanted to like this. It sounded so amazing. I think there's still potential for this series, so I will be picking up the next book. Hopefully it'll surpass this one. I did like the concept of sorcery and the war between the kingdoms, though honestly after that ending I think the sequel will also be really romance-focused. But I'll give it a try, even though I couldn't like this one as much as I wanted to.

*Thank you to Scholastic Press for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 2/5


  1. I've seen so so many mixed reviews. I feel like half of the people LOOVVEEE this book and then the other half don't. There are many things I can ignore in a book, world building being one of them but if the boys aren't good then it's hard for me to enjoy it. I already hate love triangles as it is but arrogant boys and desperate boys aren't my style. At first I wanted to read it but I don't really think it's worth my time. All the negative reviews point out things I wouldn't like much either. Thank you for the awesome review and for the heads up! :D

  2. I haven't really heard much about this book until now! Sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you hoped, Richa. I definitely won't be picking it up now as I can't stand love triangles and Alex sounds really annoying. Hopefully the second book will be much better! :)

  3. Oh, I had such high hopes for Defy, blah.. I'm okay-ish with love triangles if they're done well, and actually like the love interests and that it doesn't take up a chunk of the story- which it sounds like it does. As well as plot holes and backward character growth. Fun. Needless to say, II don't think I'll take a chance on it, so thanks for helping me make up my mind. :)

  4. Okay, so I guess I'll be avoiding this one. I'm not much of a romance reader. I was hoping this one was a good fantasy, but inadequate world building plus a love traingle... no thanks. Thanks for the review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  5. :-O You're still going to read the sequel?! You brave thing. And I like the point you made about the economics of the breeding houses, as it's something I didn't consider.


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