(Cover picture courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.)
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?
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Hold on, I know what you’re thinking! You’re thinking: “A love triangle, really? And a teenage girl disguised as a boy? How many more clichés can one author fit into a blurb?” You’d be right to doubt Defy at first glance, believe me. I was pretty doubtful as well but I decided to take a chance and request the book on NetGalley.
I hate love triangles with a passion. But I actually liked this one in Defy. Alexa has been pretending to be a man for so long that she has to relearn how to be a woman. She also has to reconcile the fact that she’s at an age where crushes develop, especially since she’s surrounded by men. It makes for a lot of interesting tension and some rather awkward situations but that makes it all the more believable. The thing I liked most about this love triangle is that Alexa doesn’t angst over it the whole time. Sure she thinks about it, but it’s not always front and centre in her thoughts for 100% of the book.
I love Sara B. Larson’s fantasy world. It’s not your typical Medieval European fantasy world and it actually seems to take place in a more tropical area. There are recognizable fantasy tropes, yes, but she doesn’t rely on them to tell the whole story. I also love how politics are never simple in the world of Defy, just like they’re never that simple in real life. Warring factions commit atrocities against one another, people die and civilian life reflects the constant presence of war. I can’t wait to see how Larson chooses to expand it later on to reflect the events at the end of the novel.
The characters were great. I really felt Alexa’s struggle, not only her inner turmoil but also her physical exertions. It takes a good writer to really put me in the shoes of someone who is naturally athletically gifted and yet in Defy this was the case. I liked how Prince Damian was not all that he appeared to be. Usually in YA the main character and her love interest can’t act worth a darn. Yet Alexa plays her role of bodyguard fairly well and Damian plays his role of spoiled prince exceedingly well.
Was this absolutely the best book I’ve ever read? No. But it certainly wasn’t awful and although there were a couple times when the plot dragged I never really felt the urge to throw my Kindle at the wall. For a book with a love triangle and a girl dressing up as a man, that’s pretty darn good. So if you think Defy sounds interesting I’d say go for it. It’s not a bad book at all.
I give this book 4/5 stars.