Author: Sara B. Larson
Published: January 7, 2014
Series?: Defy #1
Format Read/Pages: eBook/336
How I Acquired It: NetGalley
Date Finished: January 3, 2014
Date Finished: January 3, 2014
*Thank you to Scholastic for the chance to read an ARC.
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?
There have been a lot of comparisons made to Mulan and there really shouldn’t be. The only thing that is similar is the fact that a young woman pretends to be a boy and joins an army. The two young women have completely differing reasons to hide their identities and really should not be placed in the same boat. I was excited when I received this ARC via NetGalley, I had read about it beforehand and it seemed like a promising start to what could turn out to be a great series. In the end I must say that I was disappointed with what was presented in Defy.
Some of my first thoughts were that even though the concept is something that has been around and used quite often, there are still a number of ways that it could have been spun to create something highly suspenseful and entertaining. I was most looking forward to the reveal, how Alex let everyone know that she was in fact, Alexa. When the time came, the way that it was handled really annoyed me. There were so many other ways to have it play out, rather than both love interests having known for years. It makes sense that Rylan might know, but I would have liked to see Damian be surprised by the news, there were also spaces for some moments that could have been added for some comic relief, given that she is pretending to be a boy with the feelings of a young woman, that Larson did not capitalize on. I understand that it is a serious story, but it was a bit flat at times and a bit of lighthearted fun could have been added.
The love triangle was very predictable and quite annoying at times. Given the fact that both boys have been in love with her, without her knowing, for years there was no real development in any of the relationships. It just seemed that one second the prince is letting her think she has fooled him into believing she was a boy and the next they are kissing. And don’t get me started on Rylan; could Larson make him into any more of a chump? Telling Alexa he will wait for her and still love her even after she has clearly chosen Damian. Alexa needs to stop being a baby and take what she wants, even if that person happens to be a prince. “Oh, I will never be good enough for him; it won’t be accepted… blah, blah, blah.” Girl, shut up. You just saved a country, take what you want!
I really had no emotional investment in any of the characters and the one that I did like, got killed off quite early on in the story. The only thing I could really relate to with Alexa was the fact that I too would have disguised myself as a boy to avoid being raped daily and used as a brood mare. This brings me to something that was not all that necessary, in my opinion, the breeding house. I understand it was used a tool to make us hate the king more than we already did, but it really was not needed and I find it hard to believe that the people living in the vicinity of the castle, seeing what happens to those girls everyday would actually allow that to go on. I really think that there would have been a revolt before, had any of them been thinking compassionately at all.
Overall, I really don’t know how to feel about this story. I really, really wanted to like it, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. In this day and age, where there are so many strong female protagonists out there and Alexa just did not match up. If after reading the plot of the next book, I find myself intrigued, I may check it out; but I have no idea where the story could go from here without introducing a random antagonist that will threaten the lives of our characters, making them act on all the love that is flowing between them. And at this point it would probably just continue to annoy me. Good thing I have another year, to maybe revisit Defy and change my opinion, before Larson gives us another entry into the series.