I just want to start off profusely thanking Sara Larson and Scholastic for an ARC copy of Defy! I loved this book and it’s characters and have definitely become a fan :) I can’t wait until it comes out and I’ll have people to talk about it with haha. But for now I’ll have to settle for a review.
Defy is about Alexa Hollen, a girl disguised as a guy to serve in the king’s army. Her parents were killed when she and her twin brother, Marcel, were 14. Male orphans are forced into the army, and female orphans are forced into the breeding house where once they hit puberty they are raped to breed more men for the army. To save herself from that fate she and Marcel become twin ‘brothers’ and she now goes by the name Alex. She is pretty badass and unbeatable in a sword fight, which earns her a spot on the elite prince’s guard. How she manages to do all of that without revealing her secret, I have no idea. However, she’s no match for a sorcerer that abducts the prince, herself, and her fellow guard Rylan. Being in close quarters soon makes it obvious that she isn’t a guy, but fortunately for the reader, unfortunately for the characters, everyone has their share of secrets as tensions rise! Now Alex/a must trust the very people who might break her heart in order to stop a war and save the kingdom from an even deadlier enemy.
So as mentioned above, I LOOOOVVVVVED this book. I didn’t read it in one sitting (time not permitting), but I wished I had. I did, however, finish it in less than 24 hours since it showed up at my house though, so that must count for something. This book was so beautifully written that I found it hard to believe that Larson was a debut author! For me, the mark of a good author is A) me wanting to quote parts, scenes, or something a character says (Check!) and B) developing the characters to the point where the reader can just KNOW who is talking without it necessarily being specified (Check!). Alexa’s brother, Marcel was easily one of my favorite characters in the book. Even though he wasn’t in it long, he was so intellectual and caring, always protecting his sister even when she didn’t know it. This book’s Love Triangle consists of Rylan, her long-time friend and crush, the sweet, caring, concerned, brotherly type, and then there’s Damian, the lazy spoiled brat who isn’t all that he seems. In fact, it turns out that Damian is actually a great guy in his own right and god did I ship Damian and Alexa together <3
Most importantly, Alexa was a well-built character that is respectable and a great role model. Despite all she goes through, she learns about love and sacrifice, but most importantly she learns about how to be herself. With great side characters to back her up, she manages to make it through the intense plot twists in this splendid face-paced novel. Another enjoyable aspect of the novel was the setting in the rainforest. I found the concept and it’s affects on the characters intriguing and refreshing.
I just have a couple things I’d like to say about what I didn’t like about the book, because there was a couple. There were plenty of unexplained parts that would’ve really added to the book if they had been addressed/ addressed in detail. Such as how some people caught on to the fact that she was a girl. Never explained, they just know! Also, how the heck did she possibly keep her secret, especially whenever it was her time of the month…. I think that would make her gender quite obvious. How Hector became king in the first place, building up the land and countries’ history would’ve been nice too. I felt like the reader didn’t know anything at all until the end of the book, which doesn’t work with huge chunks of information. Lastly, I wish that the whole ‘sorcerer’ thing had been better clarified, especially since it seems to be more complex than other author’s versions of sorcery and magic. There are clearly different kinds of sorcerer’s and I feel like the reader should have been enlightened, especially considering the number of characters who are sorcerers. Actually, I lied; I have two more last things to nit pick about, though they have nothing to do with things not being explained. At the beginning of the book there were so many names all at once that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who in the palace. And also why was Tanoori added to the book? She didn’t detract from the book of course, but she didn’t seem to add anything to it either.
All in all, this book is completely worth reading, despite it’s little irks, and I can’t wait till book 2 (which will hopefully answer some of my questions). I think it will definitely get good reception and that fans of Graceling and Iron Fey would enjoy this novel. Either way I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on more of Sara B. Larson’s works in the future and watching her grow as an author :)