Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Monday, December 9, 2013 with 9 comments
Title: Defy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy, book #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source: received from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

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?

This book had serious potential, and although saying that at the beginning of my review makes it sound like the book didn't meet expectations, I want to be clear that this book was good.  The story, albeit the first in a series, has a lot of promise, and it's well-written.  For whatever reason, though, I thought Defy was a stand-alone, which is my fault not the book's, but I have to admit that this fact did hinder my enjoyment somewhat. Like I said, though, that's my fault, so I'm not deducting points or whatever for it.

I'm a sucker for a story about a tough girl masquerading as a boy, and I always like to discover the why behind the deception.  Alexa/Alex was no different, but her story may have garnered more sympathy than most.  And it made me like her brother immediately, even if he didn't get all that much page time.  In fact, I rather found all of the characters in this fantasy story pretty likable, despite all of their secrets and duplicity.

The love interests both proved likable, too, but honestly, I never felt that the love triangle hinted at in the synopsis was really a true triangle.  Alex started off with "feelings" for one boy, who didn't know she was a boy and then developed feelings for another who may or may not know she's not a boy.  I usually pull for the boy who's been friends with the protagonist forever over the newcomer, but in this case, I just never felt the draw to the first guy on the scene.  And I usually don't like the guy who's keeping secrets from the girl, but in this case, both had their secrets and their reasons, so I was able to reason away the deceptions on both sides.  I don't know if that's a good thing or not, though.

I enjoyed the addition of magic and sorcerers to the story, but even so, the story still felt fantasy-lite to me. It held my attention well enough, but I never felt immersed in this world.  It's proving very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why I couldn't connect with this story because I liked the plot, the pacing, the characters...I just needed more of something, I guess.

If it weren't for having read some seriously epic YA fantasies like the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas or the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo or the Fire and Thorns books by Rae Carson, I might have been inclined to rate this higher. As it stands, I think it's more of a 3 1/2 star read, but I don't have a graphic for that and I'm too lazy to make one, so I'm rounding down.  Nothing against the book, but it doesn't really warrant rounding up.  I really hope the sequel proves me wrong, though.

GIF it to me straight:
Meh in a good way...those seeking a jaunty little adventure will find lots to enjoy.

About the author:

I love writing, reading, and dessert--but the order varies by the day. I write books that have magic and romance and kick-butt girls and a whole lot more. My husband and I live in Utah with our three children. I write during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. My husband claims I should have a degree in "the art of multitasking." On occasion you will find me hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary and my YA debut DEFY is coming Spring 14 from Scholastic!

Find Sara:

WebsiteTwitter | FacebookGoodreads


  1. Yup! I felt the same way! Like, exactly the same... o.O Weirdly enough. ;) I felt the author only developed ONE of the two guys, so the ending kind of surprised me in that way. I totally adored the setting, but the whole romance aspect just didn't click for me at all. Plus, I didn't like how as soon as they knew Alex/Alexa was a girl, everyone started protecting her. Um, wasn't she just kicking their butts a few seconds ago?

  2. At least it kept you interested enough to check out the sequel, I guess.

    I get what you mean though, when you read books that are so epic you come to expect the same from the rest of the genre and so if you read a book that's not as good, it always feels 'eh' in comparison.

  3. I really want to read this one so seeing your review made me squeal because I always look forward to seeing your opinions! But I get what you're saying about how it didn't meet your expectations, but it's still GOOD. That's the hardest feeling to portray in reviews, I personally think. Characters are a big factor to me so I'm glad you enjoyed them all and that the love interests were created well. I'm with you, I can't help, but root for the guy who's been there the longest (except when it comes to Adam/Warner, go Warner!) so it'll be interesting to see it go the other way now.

  4. I'm reading it now and I'm only about 35% in. I really have liked it so far, but you are right - those other series just spoiled me in the fantasy realm.

  5. I look forward to reading this one. Sounds exciting and a little bit of intrigue blended together.

  6. Hmmm. It always confuses me when authors push a book as having a triangle, but then it's clear who the MC is interested in. However, with a series like this, I always fear it will be revived in the next book. That plus the fact that you didn't find this to be as amazing as some other fantasy, means I'm going to avoid it until at least the next book releases.

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