Review. Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson

Published: January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press
 Rating: 3 out of 5

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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's a lot to like about Defy, and there's a lot of little bits that make you rethink what you've read. My overall thought was that I liked it. I liked the fantasy world, I liked Alexa and I also liked Damien, the Crown Prince, because I saw through him immediately, but once you see past the flicked pages you come to realise there isn't a challenging story here, it's an a series of events to overthrow a king.

One of my first loves was Alanna in Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce so I've always had a soft spot for girls dressing as boys to escape an grimmer alternative. Here, after the murder of her parents, Alexa must disguise herself as a boy to avoid being sent to the breeding houses, grim indeed. Luckily her father taught her and her twin brother, Marcel, how to wield a sword so they lie their way into the army and eventually get a place on the Princes Guard. Everyone thinks they're 20-year-old brothers but actually they're only 17. Alexa is so good at fighting she could have made Captain if not for her age.

Prince Damien, the one they guard, is an obnoxious idiot who can't even use a sword. But after a series of events including the death of her brother, a eventful outing where Alex and Rylan meet rebels--and a jaguar--Alexa is chosen to be on guard outside the Princes room. She gets to know the Prince a little better as he confides how they are both alike, both playing their parts. Damien shows his true colours when they, along with her friend Rylan, are kidnapped. Damien is not the idle Prince they all thought he was. And the magic, who is forbidden in their kingdom, is in Alexa's veins. Can she be the one who can help Prince Damien overthrow his father, the King?

Defy is very typically YA. In that I mean, Alexa is a great character in the beginning when no one knows she's a girl. But as soon as others discover her true self she begins to act and think very girly. Suddenly its tops off and views of torso's. Touching is very, well, touchy feely. And Rylan and the Prince both guessed she was a girl before the secret was out. About a quarter of the book shifted from the actual story to her feelings of the Prince and/or Rylan, without a thought at the horror of losing her twin brother, Marcel, and all the real horrors of the breeding houses or what's at stake.

The other thing that didn't sit right WAS the breeding houses. I didn't get a clear indication of how long the King was in power, I'm guessing 15-20 years. But they serve a purpose, so he can breed an army. Yet the oldest kids born into this regime can't surely be old enough to even serve yet? Maybe a few. When Alexa walked the three girls to the houses in the beginning I didn't get the impression there were that many kids, apart from the man saying they only had a few rooms left. But I didn't get the idea that it was a huge house with hundreds of little army boys running around. An odd concept.

Defy is a love story with a fantasy background. As long as you keep that in mind then the rest of the story flows nicely. As I wrote earlier I liked it, and I'm looking forward to the next one to see if Alexa is really ONLY going to be just a guard. If you've read this book you'll get what I mean :)

Exotic, but not quite as epic as I would have liked.

About the Author
Sara B. Larson is the author of the acclaimed YA fantasy DEFY, and the sequels IGNITE and ENDURE. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband and their three children. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day (while mourning the demise of naptime) and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

You can find Sara B. Larson here:


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