Defy by Sara B. Larson
Defy is a high fantasy set in a jungle that features Alexa, a formidable warrior who protects the prince. Disguised as a boy, she’s sworn to give her life in defense of Damian. But when she, Damian, and Rylan are kidnapped, the danger of losing Damian, getting killed, and exposing her true self all come into play with major stakes.
Publisher’s 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?
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
Sometimes it takes me a while to write up a review. I was very touch-and-go on this particular trilogy, not because I thought it was a bad read, but there were certain things about Defy that didn’t quite capture my attention like other high fantasies do. Let’s start with things I did like, shall we?
This has a great plot – Damian is trying to overthrow his father, but does it in a tricky way, in hopes that his evil dick of a dad doesn’t see it coming. So he hires a neighbor country where he has family ties to help him. The plan? To kidnap Damian and stage a coup to make it look like Damian isn’t at fault. Although Alexa gets dragged into the plan without her knowledge, her ignorance makes the ploy that much more convincing. However, as more secrets – especially about Damian – are revealed, Alexa has to wonder just how much she can trust the prince she thought she knew.
Also, I like that magic is featured in a way that doesn’t make it the main plot – but just a side one, as some characters have special abilities and some do not. Some fear magic, others use it for their personal benefit, and some just want to do good with it. Yes, it’s a common theme for most fantasies dealing with magic, but I like that it isn’t the focus of the story.
However, there are quite a few things I wasn’t fond of.
First off, the whole Alex vs. Alexa. For someone who has spent YEARS pretending to be a boy, Alex doesn’t seem to have a lid on her emotions and often projects herself in a way that could automatically be construed as feminine. She has frequent outbursts, which although necessary, don’t help her case for me; you’d think if she was really trying hard not to be found, she’d be better at hiding her feminine side, especially with all those years of practice. It’s no wonder that half the characters you meet already know she’s a woman. Granted, I was in her head while reading, so I suppose this may make me bias. But I just didn’t buy into any of the scenes where she was acting the role of a man.
Something related to that topic but not in the same way, was the frequent use of her breasts. And I don’t mean like in a romantic way. I mean, this word was overused and referred to as if the reader was a simpleton. This may be weird to say, but WE GET THAT SHE’S A GIRL IN DISGUISE. I don’t constantly need reminded that Alexa has boobs and she has to hide them 24/7. This is really something I picked up on less in the next two books, so either I’m not the only one who noticed this repetitiveness and the author changed her style; or it’s because in the next two, all the characters know she’s a girl anyway. Not sure but I’m glad it was less frequent regardless.
Another thing that really bothered me was the romance. I felt that this was the most forced thing in the book. Neither one of the relationships Alexa found herself torn between felt real. With Damian, things started out as love-hate. He was attractive, but a spoiled brat destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. That is until Alexa discovers he’s been keeping his real self hidden and then suddenly OMG SHE’S IN LOVE AND EVERYTHING HAS TO DO WITH DAMIAN AND THE WAY HE LOOKS. I was frustrated at the change in pace and wanted nothing more than to remind Alexa of what her real goal in the story was. And then of course, there’s Rylan, the BFF who has loved her for a long time and she’s grown fond of him as well. I suppose their relationship isn’t necessarily forced, so much as convenient to help engage a new side plot for the story.
HOWEVER. Tell me why – you have Rylan, the sweet, protective, and friendly guy who just wants to make Alexa happy and help her to be herself is left in the dust for the future king who has spent YEARS lying to Alexa, treating her unkindly, and hiding things from her that could have benefited her protection over him. That makes no sense to me. The love didn’t feel real. Even at the end, Alexa didn’t know Damian because she literally just found out he too was a sorcerer. I hated this choice. I wanted to scream at her.
Okay, ranting spree over with now.
All this being said – THIS IS NOT A BAD BOOK. Like I mentioned before, it has a great plot with characters who are heroic and skilled in a multitude of ways. There’s magic and there’s intrigue and there’s romance. I’m really sticking with the Goodreads three which literally says, “I liked it.” Which is true. I liked it. I just wasn’t in love with it. But that doesn’t mean someone reading this review won’t be. I mean, Marie Lu blurbed it and she’s one of my favorite authors. So I’m hoping readers of this review will still give this trilogy a chance if they’re into all the things I just said.
Our reviews in this series…
Links will become active as reviews are posted.
Recommended for fans of Kiersten White, Sophie Jordan, and Tamora Pierce.