winged reviews
Review, Young Adult / April 22, 2014
Defy by Sara B. LarsonDefy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Publisher: Scholastic
Date: January 2014
336 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy
Buy the BookGoodreads

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?

Reviewed by: Mary

So here’s a confession I have to make that might make my unpopular: I absolutely hate love triangles. I love stories that feature relationships and romance, but I hate when they devolve into love triangles.

I grabbed a copy of Defy because the description I read sounded right up my alley. A girl who is a gifted fighter poses as a boy, a prince who may or may not be pretending to be a lazy, spoiled brat, a kingdom in peril. It was everything I normally want. Even the cover looked like something I would love.

The book starts out promising in the prologue. Twins who are orphaned when their house is attacked by a sorcerer, the girl has to pose as a boy so that she will be drafted into the army and will stay with her brother. But the book goes very quickly downhill from there, at least for me. The first chapter contains a detailed and prolonged description of the fate that awaits girls that are captured by the King’s army – they’re sent to the “breeding house” where they’re raped day in and out and forced to have children who are then enslaved.

This in and of itself wasn’t really what made me dislike the book, it was the fact that it drew my attention so clearly to the primary fault of the entire narrative: it’s all been done. Having the heroine threatened by rape or having rape become a primary part of your plot is a fantasy novel stereotype at this point, and one that many female writers are starting to rebel against so I was surprised to see it here.

The rest of the plot I could pick and choose the different threads to figure out where I had seen them before, and for the most part where they had been done better. Because that’s the thing, I’ll read the same story thirty times by thirty authors if it’s good each time. But this book just seemed like telling a story by trying to play trope bingo, and it never came together for me. I also didn’t find Alexa very likeable, because her inner monologue was often filled with things that just felt out of place. She thinks about the romance at times where she should be thinking about the intrigue and thinks about the intrigue when she should be romantic. Her decisions don’t seem to come from her character but instead from where the plot needs to go next.

Overall, there is just so much high quality young adult fantasy fiction out there and this book doesn’t add anything new to the genre. I wish I had reread one of my favorites instead.

1 Stars

One Comment to Defy by Sara B. Larson

  1. Amanda says:

    As a lifelong fan of fantasy fiction – both for adult and younger audiences – I don't think it's true that there isn't much high quality YA fantasy out there. I think it's the same with pretty much any genre. Sometimes the bad gets inexplicably hyped while the great books recently published don't get much attention. But there are tons of fantastic YA fantasies out there, I promise!

    I am with you, though, in that I'd probably dislike Defy very strongly had I read it. Just none of the elements sound like they'd work for me as a reader. And that's a shame. I think tropes do have a place in stories sometimes, but I wish that authors would do more and explore beyond them, as well.
    My recent post The Monthly Digest: March 2014

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