Author: Sara B. Larson
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA, Romance
Release Date: Jan 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic – Scholastic Press
Summary: 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?
Contains Mild Spoilers.
Before I begin, I would like to clarify. This book is NOT high fantasy (despite what they tell you.) It is a romance novel. So I will review it as one.
Defy starts out moderately well, with all the stereotypical beginnings of a girl forced to disguise herself as a boy – the parents killed off in a tragic beginning, and a sudden disguise to escape some dreadful fate, in this case, the breeding houses. Stereotypes can be useful, to form rules that you can break and subvert later.
Except that doesn’t happen here. The stereotypes stay.
Defy could have been so good.
Time passes and we discover that the main character has become one of the most expert swordsmen in the Prince’s elite guard – a position that would have earned her the Captainship, had she been older. (By the way, not a very good way to select a captain, who says they’ll be loyal?) This is a nice point, as I enjoyed the descriptions of her fighting, of knowing how adept she was. However, she’s also the fastest, the most skilled shot, and second in command. Very Mary-Sue like. Dangerous territory.
Most of the time, I barely believe her as a boy. And when everyone suddenly discovers she’s a girl (seriously, everyone, at once, all of a sudden they know) she acts less like a boy than ever. And she doesn’t even act like a decent girl. She acts like she’s young and spoiled. She’s whiny. Petulant. She overdramatizes everything when they don’t want to talk to her. Prince Damien saves her life in the most protective way. (Because he’s secretly really good at fighting. I thought she was the guard. Come on.) They’re being kidnapped and all she can think about is what these boys look like. It makes me wonder how exactly she’d been capable of putting the disguise up at all. (Since when do men not cry when people in their family die? What makes her think that makes any sense at all?)
I’m not even going to address how often her heart fluttered, or how often she ogled some guy. Because clearly that was more important than a war, assassination attempts, getting kidnapped, and the general horror of things. (Like breeding houses. Come on, really? Illogical. And stupid in a 20 year war. )
stock characters (evil king, gorgeous pouty prince, a slimy skinny vizier, best friend that’s sweet but has no backstory)
a barely developed world, (I can’t even differentiate between countries)
plot devices that are unrealistic, (I’m looking at you breeding houses)
magic that is undeveloped, (shields and healing and no explanations)
no religion, (oh wait, someone said underworld and demon, once)
no history, (except for that which relates to the main characters)
ugly people are bad, (like the fat guy that is in charge of the breeding houses, and that stupid vizier)
and so many other things I couldn’t name them all.
The romance was believable, though entirely pathetic, which is why this is getting two stars. If I had reviewed this as high fantasy, it would not get any. I mean, the second Prince Damien was described as sardonic you knew she was going to fall for him. She was fluttering the whole book. For a girl who’s supposedly good at acting, she sucks. It also gets two stars because she didn’t say yes to him at the end. Which made me happy. No one deserves a happy ending here. Good.
Defy disappointed me, truly, and I had such high hopes. For supposedly being a book with a strong willed heroine, it fell as hard as it could fall. Even her fantastic sword-fighting skills were attributed to magic. Because, of course, no woman could possibly beat all those men without magic. And that makes me the saddest of all.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, because the heroine is weak and whiny, (though she started out strong, I don’t know what happened), the plot is nothing new, and the romance is so stereotypical I knew what would happen on page six (which is the second page of chapter one). Damien is your typical hidden sensitive soul, Rylan has nothing to him, and Alexa has no concept of how to act like a man.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, because it claims to have a strong heroine, and yet, and yet, she becomes that very weak-willed girl that we all want to burn away. Because young girls might read this and think that’s what being a strong woman is. Fluttering in the arms of your prince.
And while its okay to flutter in the arms of your beloved, just ask a WWII bride what she felt like during the war and you’ll see a strong woman. It won’t be this.
Ps. Do we know anything about anyone else besides Damien and Alexa? No. Because they’re not the main love story. So we don’t care about anyone else’s backstory.