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Endure by Sara B. Larson

In this third and final installment to the Defy trilogy, Alexa and Damian are engaged to be wed – but first they’ve got a country to save and lots of bad guys to defeat.

TitleEndure
AuthorSara B. Larson
SeriesDefy, Book 03
Publish Date: December 29, 2015 by Scholastic
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionAt last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the enemy. Even worse, Alexa remains at the mercy of the evil Dansiian Rafe, who controls her mind and can force Alexa to kill or harm Damian at any moment. Despite this, Alexa is determined to rescue Rylan, which soon leads her far from Damian and deep into enemy territory.

When she arrives, what awaits her is deadlier than anything she could have ever imagined: an army of black sorcerers and a horrifying plot to destroy the world as Alexa knows it. Will she be able to gather the strength to free herself, protect the love of her life, and save the land? Will there ever be true peace?

Acclaimed author Sara B. Larson has woven a stunning, romantic, and evocative finale to the Defy trilogy that is sure to leave readers breathless until the very last page.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

This book is particularly action-packed and I really loved it. Characters are getting back into their own skins and finally taking charge of the situations, even when they seem hopeless. For the first time since they were “kidnapped” by the Blevonese, Alexa and Damian must separate. Damian will lead his Antion people to safety and Alexa is bound to rescue Rylan.

Things naturally don’t go according to plan, but that’s okay because it provides some really cool fight scenes. I really love the beginning when Manu comes in and creates that magical smoke that causes a lot of people to hallucinate. Plus, any time there’s magic, it’s always cool, so there’s quite a few fight scenes that really captured my attention.

I do love that Alexa is vulnerable to Rafe’s mind control and so is Rylan. It makes for an interesting final battle between the two of them, Damian, and Rafe.

I don’t have many rants about this book – it made me happier than the first two, though I was sad to see quite a few characters go that I’d grown fond of. But that’s the trouble with high fantasy, haha! Everyone you like DIES.

Anyway, this is a great trilogy. Full of excitement and great political, romantic, and magical plot lines.

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Kiersten White, Sophie Jordan, and Tamora Pierce.

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Ignite by Sara B. Larson

In this sequel to Defy, Alexa and Damian face a new threat – supposedly from the allies they just made. Can they stop the real bad guys from spreading their magical influence across Antion and prevent a bloody war?

TitleIgnite
AuthorSara B. Larson
SeriesDefy, Book 02
Publish Date: December 30, 2014, by Scholastic
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionMurder, kidnapping, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson’s acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa continues to harbor a secret love for the newly crowned King Damian, yet she remains by his side as his guard and ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion’s people. However, when a new threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on the once friendly nation of Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. Once again the fate of her country hangs in the balance. Will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy — before it’s too late?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

The characters in Ignite are what make this story for me, even more than the engaging plot. We are introduced to familiar faces and also meet a few new bad guys that provide trouble for Alexa, Damian, and the rest of the Antion realm. Tanoori and Eljin are two of my favorites. Tanoori is fierce and heroic, but also charitable as she helps out with the process of rebuilding Antion despite her troubled past. Eljinn is also a character with a hidden past and a scar that bears the burden of that history on his face. He’s a sorcerer and well, he’s a badass.

Also new to the story are the two twin villain sorcerers, Rafe and Vera, who are skilled in mind control. They’re using their power to manipulate both Blevon and Antion in hopes that the two will go to war with each other so that Armando, Damian’s evil uncle, can take over the whole world and gain access to magic that will make them essentially unstoppable.

Though I’m certainly a little bit leery of the romance issue between Alexa, Damian, and Rylan, the excitement of the plot makes up for what that plot lacks. It’s engaging – I especially love the scene where Alexa defies orders and goes to interrogate Manu. Magical fight scenes are always epic and this particular one was no exception. In fact, it was probably my favorite scene in the whole trilogy.

The romance just still doesn’t do it for me. I know that Alexa turns Damian down at the end of Defy, for personal reasons (she doesn’t think she’s good enough for him, or good enough to be queen); but in this, she’s forced to admit she really loves him in order to break him out of Vera’s spell. I just felt like it was a convenient little tidbit that made the story flow. Real mind control doesn’t break like that (for the record, I thought it was weird in Divergent too, when Tobias was under mind control and attempted to kill Tris; this was a very similar scene).

And then Rylan (who is upset for being turned down for the same reason I was upset she turned him down) is naturally, kind of hostile to Alexa. AND SHE’S ALL LIKE “BUT Y U MAD?” and tries to act like things are normal, but they aren’t. And it’s frustrating.

The major moment in this book that I was so incredibly flustered with – and this isn’t really a spoiler because there’s several moments where she’s with Rafe. But this really did it for me and is the reason I give it a three. At one point in the book, Alexa is positioned on a tree where she is overlooking the Daniisian (the enemies in the story) camp, where Rafe, the bad guy, is holding Damian’s half-brother hostage. She’s wearing A FRICKING BOW AND ARROW and is within range of killing Rafe, but doesn’t. She even feels HELPLESS to do anything as Rafe threatens to abuse the child. My thoughts when reading this scene?

WHAT THE SAM H HELL?!!! SHOOT HIM! YOU’RE A BADASS WARRIOR WITH ARCHERY SKILLS. If Alexa would have shot him, half her problems would have been solved. I MEAN, COME ON. I’ve never really felt like Alexa was smart, which might have been okay because she was very involved and fierce. But at this point, I felt Alexa was really dumb.

And I know. If we kill off Rafe, it would have removed one of the major plots to follow in the third book. But Rafe wasn’t the main villain, he was just one of the lead bad guy’s minions. SO THEREFORE SHE COULD HAVE SHOT HIM.

Alas, she did not.

Again, this isn’t a bad story. Rating it a three doesn’t mean I hated it. I just liked it. No more, no less. If you’re looking for a cool follow up high fantasy tale set in the jungle with some pretty cool characters, I recommend this book.

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Kiersten White, Sophie Jordan, and Tamora Pierce.

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.

TitleDefy
AuthorSara B. Larson
SeriesDefy, Book 01
Publish Date: January 4, 2014 by Scholastic
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

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.

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Kiersten White, Sophie Jordan, and Tamora Pierce.