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?
(Summary from Goodreads)
I found Sara B. Larson’s debut, Defy, to be flawed yet enjoyable. My main problem was with the world building. It felt to me like the world building was only scratching the surface, and it left me with several unanswered questions. For example, why was King Hector so against sorcerers? I was also confused about the mishmash of names for no apparent reason – they seemed to be from a wide variety of origins, yet it was never implied that there was an actual reason for this. Alexa also seemed to have a fixation with other people’s skin color which seemed to serve no purpose outside of showing how “diverse” all of the characters were.
Then there was the fact that the summary is misleading. The abduction that is supposed to be some sort of inciting incident doesn’t happen until halfway through the book. I mean, there were some important things that happened before the abduction, but I do wish it could’ve happened a little bit sooner.
I did really enjoy the book, though. It reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet, and if you’re a fan of that, I recommend Defy, as well. I loved watching Alexa trying to figure out who she was after pretending to be someone she wasn’t for so long. Alexa trying to figure out how to be true to her whole self as opposed to only part of herself was realistic, and it was so easy to root for her after all she’d lost.
Another highlight of the book was the love triangle. I was unquestionably Team Damian, but I loved Rylan’s sweetness, too. I could see how Alexa could be torn, although I do wish the love triangle had kept me guessing a little bit more.
Read this one if you like your fantasy to be a quick escape rather than a soul-crushing epic.
Rating: 3/5 Stars