Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
336 Pages

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

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?

Defy is love story set in a fantasy world where gender discrimination is high. In order to avoid being taken to the breeding house when their village is raided, Alexa’s twin brother quickly cuts off her hair and passes her as a boy. The two are trained for the kings’ army and then assigned to the Prince’s Royal Guard. There are secrets and lies littered throughout this book that it’s extremely hard to know who to trust. And unfortunately, the story is a little predictable. 

Larson’s set up of the world is pretty good. Early on, we get a nice overview of the world we are reading about and the war that is threatening the people. Under the current king rule, all conquest of war are separated into two different stations: boys are trained to fight, girls are sent to the breeding houses. The breeding houses (exactly what they sound like) creeped me out and every time I read about them I just wanted to put the book down. 

There is a love triangle in this book. The writer lets us know that right in the description of the book. So the story tends to veer away from strength in fighting the gender stereotypes and right into which boy should Alexa choose, which disappointed me a little. I loved the idea of a girl hiding in plain sight in a man’s world. Alexa is a strong character, but I feel this got lost somewhere. When she’s around the Prince or Rylan it becomes “ooh look at his abs” “ooh he’s so pretty”.  And then there’s her attitude of “I want to be treated like a boy” and then two seconds later “why aren’t they treating me like a girl? Do they not think that I’m pretty?”.

The most interesting character to me was Prince Damian. From Alexa’s description of him early on:

There had been a moment when I’d first met him when I wished I didn’t have to hide that I was a girl. But then he’d opened his mouth to speak, and it didn’t take long for me to come to dislike him.

To watching him grow throughout the course of the book, I was intrigued by him. While I guessed a majority of his secrets, I felt for him. He was a Prince of a kingdom under a rule of a king he didn’t support, but had to pretend in order to survive. He was one character that I honestly questioned throughout. His motives were either blatantly obvious or extremely secretive and I kept trying to figure out which way Larson was leaning. 

My one wish, and this may be slightly spoilerish, was that I wished that both Rylan and the Prince didn’t know Alexa was a girl. While it made sense that Rylan knew, I would liked to have seen the struggle with the Prince and his feelings for a “boy” of his guard. It seemed a little easy that they both knew and in this, we lost a storyline of something a little deeper. 

Overall, it was an enjoyable book and I look forward to the next one to see what happens.
I received a e-copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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