Author: Sara B. Larson
Format / Length: Hardback / 336 pages
Publisher / Date Published: Scholastic Press / January 7th 2014
Category / Genre: Young Adult / High-fantasy
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Description: 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, defy, defy. Even days after I’ve finished it I’m still uncertain about how I feel about it. Did I like it? Yes. Did I think it was the amazing, beautiful and incredible read I thought it was going to be? Unfortunately, no. I know I will read the sequel, Ignite — and maybe I’ll enjoy it more now as I will know what to expect from it.
Defy was described as a lush read with a tough, kickass heroine.
But was it, really?
No . . . I didn’t think so; and actually, the worldbuilding and characters was where this novel fell flat, as well as the romance. Well, romances.
Here, though, was the best thing about the novel: it was so quick and easy to read. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump — but once I got into the story it literally took me only a few hours to devour the novel. The writing style is simple, yes, but so, so easy to read. That, I thought, was where the novel excelled in creating a page-turner, because it is so easily written.
I truly understand where the author was trying to go with the novel, and as a fellow fantasy-writer I can appreciate it, but I felt like she missed the mark in many areas of the novel that could’ve been fantastic. Take, for example, our main character — Alexa. Or, Alex, as she’s known from the rest of her guard. In the typical sense of the word, she was “badass” and “tough” but I don’t believe that was enough to sell her character to me as a reader. She was a little . . . and I hate to say this . . . but boring. The only thing I really knew about her was that she was a good fighter. That was it. When you create a badass character, I feel as though the author needs to make her flawed in a way that makes her loveable and realistic at the same time.
Speaking of characters, a lot of them die. Which is a common thread when it come to fantasy, right? And that’s fine; it highlights a brutal world. But when it comes to death in fantasy, you want the reader to feel it, not just witness it. And I felt for a novel that was written in first person — which is usually much more emotive than third — I didn’t feel much. Even characters that were close to our protagonist, I felt oddly disconnected to the whole thing.
Love triangles. They can either be good — or bad. I wish, I truly wish from the bottom of my heart, wish that I could say I loved it. So in Defy our two main love interests are Rylan — one of the boys in Alexa’s guard — and Prince Damian. Not sure I really cared for either one of them. The thing that bothers me so much about love triangles is always the main character’s attitude toward them — she’s always bouncing between the two, with conflicting monologue that is tiresome to read. And, I thought that the story was too focused on the romance. If the author had pulled back on it a little I think she would have had more of a chance to expand on the world she had created — which I speak about in the next paragraph.
Next issue I had with Defy was the worldbuilding. Or — more like it — the lack of worldbuilding. Here’s the total of what I knew of Defy’s worldbuilding: there were jungles. And a monarchy system. Jungles are cool, don’t get me wrong . . . but what else? A vague mention of “God”. WHAT GOD? This is high-fantasy, a whole new world, and I can’t just assume things about a religion that’s not even there. There was also a distinct lack of history in the world; bits and pieces of it scattered here and there, most of which was cobbled together in a confusing manner, and I didn’t really get it. Something about sorcerers? And evil people? When the worldbuilding is stretched as thin as it was in Defy it’s hard for me to look past it in a positive way. You can’t be fully involved in a world you don’t even understand. Yes, I realize this is a series, but even so, this story almost lost me at its poorly developed world.
So, all in all, not a great high-fantasy.
Enjoyable in some regards, but also underdeveloped.