Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Defy

DEFY
Defy #1
Sara B. Larson
Young Adult/Fantasy
336 pages
Scholastic
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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?


MY THOUGHTS
Defy is an exquisitely character-driven fantasy debut from Ms. Larson, one that gives us a brief explanation for how the kingdom of Antion came to be at war in order to satisfy our curiosity before delving us deep into the life of young Alexa, a heroine who steals our hearts from the moment she appears on page. This is not a fantasy world with a breadth and scope that both dazzles and overwhelms, instead we're treated to a story set on a much smaller scale, drawn in through small intimacies and nuances in Alexa, Prince Damien and the remainder of his guard, so thoroughly invested in their lives we find ourselves hesitating to pick up another book upon finishing this one because we simply can't bring ourselves to let them go just yet.

Alexa is nothing short of extraordinary on every level, a young woman who's fought and won a spot on the prince's guard, her skill with both bow and sword outmatching all those around her. We're forced to endure a rather brutal series of opening chapters, details of just how horrifying life for a young woman under the rule of King Hector is setting us on edge now that we know what awaits Alexa should her secret ever come to light. Though she's a fighter through and through, Ms. Larson imbues her with just enough vulnerability to keep her from being fully defined by the steel she so effortlessly wields, letting us bear witness to her quiet moments when grief and fear exploit cracks in her nearly impenetrable defenses and show us what she can't afford to let anyone else see.

While the synopsis prepares us for a love triangle–one that seems as though it could be prominent enough to be off-putting to those of us who are so tired of this particular romantic shape–Defy proves itself to be one of the rare occasions where the love triangle setup works beautifully, Ms. Larson showing she's as skilled with a blade as her young Alexa, slowly carving up our hearts as the relationships between Alexa, Rylan and Prince Damien unfold. Alexa is not the type of girl who's cavalier about love, prone to waffling or playing games, instead she's forthright with both young men at every turn, fully aware of what's on the line for all three of them given the emotions involved. She has moments of utter confusion since romance has always been something far beyond the scope of her day to day life thanks to the pretense she must uphold for survival, but she's one who thinks before she acts and who makes her preference known to the other party with nothing short of a heavy heart.

The boys, for their part, are equally honest in their feelings; feelings that are more than believable given the three of them have known one another for years. This is not a case of two new guys entering a young woman's life and finding themselves opposing forces in a battle for love, rather it's a raw and painful revelation brought about by an unforeseen change in circumstances. The individual relationships Alexa has with both Rylan and Damien are equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking, their story one that's only enriched by the three points of this particular triangle rather than hindered by them, our cheeks decorated with the tracks of tears shed as battles–emotional and physical–are fought bravely and won, though they are done so with the steepest of costs.

Defy is a breathtaking start to this series, Alexa's journey dark but also undeniably hopeful, and I can only cross my fingers that this next year breaks records with the speed at which it passes by so I can get my grabby hands on the sequel all the quicker.

Rating: 4.5/5
 

Find Sara:

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Sara yesterday on the blog, so if you didn't get a chance yet, be sure and check it out!

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

38 comments:

  1. I've seen a few glowing reviews for this, but I was a bit hesitant to read it. I'm always hesitant when it comes to books like this, but I like the fact that this is so character driven. And know I'm curious about the love-triangle, because I can appreciate one that is well done. I just might have to go ahead and read this!

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    1. I actually hesitated to even call it a triangle Christy, because it never truly forms. Her feelings solidify for one guy in particular and she never strays from that even when the other lets his feelings be known. I just loved how it was handled:)

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  2. Sounds good to me, but then hey, guess who loves fantasy ;) Haha, everyone knows

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    1. I'm starting to become a fantasy-lover. For so long I thought it wasn't the genre for me, but that clearly is not the case!

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  3. Oh, boy. The way you describe the hesitant feelings of picking up another book--they really make me reconsider continuing this story, because what if it has something to offer me other than what I'm seeing now? I just can't connect with this book to save my life. I'm really on the verge of DNF-ing it. I agree that this book has some really cruel and brutal things in it like the breeding house. Ew, that just made me nauseous when I was reading it. "She has moments of utter confusion"--you're right about that one! I'm not a fan of this love triangle because I see no chemistry between those people, but she sure is confused about some things. I love your enthusiasm about this book, but that's about it, unfortunately. I really don't care for any of it and I feel a bit left out because obviously I'm missing something amazing. Eh.. I guess I'll go and cry to Nick lol. Gorgeous review nevertheless.

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    1. It's not a book for everyone, and I've seen plenty of reviews at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine. I just loved it though:)

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  4. Oh wow--such an awesome review! I have read some mixed reviews for this one so I was nervous but we have the same taste, so I am definitely going to have to check this one out. Plus, a love triangle that works well? Sign me up! Thanks for the great review, Jenny!

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    1. It definitely seems to be getting the love it or hate it reviews, and I'm firmly in the love it camp. I just adored Alexa and her story, it made me cry and at the same time brought a smile to my face. I hope you like it Christina!

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  5. Definitely a dark but hopeful book, which is why I enjoyed it so much. I've read a couple of negative reviews for it and, while I can understand their points, I still really liked this story as a whole. And I didn't really think there was a triangle at all, since she never liked the one guy like that.

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    1. I feel the same Mary. I've read a handful of reviews where the reviewers didn't like a single thing about it, and while they all have valid points, I just fell madly in love with this one. And I agree, the triangle was sort of a non-triangle. I just thought it worked:)

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  6. I love this "While the synopsis prepares us for a love triangle–one that seems as though it could be prominent enough to be off-putting to those of us who are so tired of this particular romantic shape–Defy proves itself to be one of the rare occasions where the love triangle setup works beautifully.." because with love triangles so prominent anymore, it is hard to like them so I am glad that even though there is a dreaded triangle, it is very much bearable.

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    1. I didn't find it bothersome in the least Ali, mostly because like Mary mentioned above, it never feels like a true triangle. Her feelings for one guy are romantic, and her feelings for the other don't go beyond friendship. And she's upfront with both of them, there's no game playing which is always what drives me crazy:)

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  7. Loved this review! It makes me want to read it right now!!!

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  8. Hmm..not really sure if I should pick this one up; I've some really negative reviews about it and didn't think it was for me but your rating makes me want to reconsider. I think I'll wait and see what book 2 sounds like before deciding to pick it up. I'm bummed that there is a love triangle in it though.

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    1. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of shocked by the number of negative reviews I've seen, their experiences with this book are just so, so different from mine! I loved it:)

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  9. A book that engages your grabby hands? Always, ALWAYS a good sign. :D

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  10. Wow I am so confused. I have read reviews for this that are all over the place and your review is wonderful. I love the sound of the world building and while the triangle makes me gag I may have to read this one to see where I fall.

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    1. I was a big fan of this one Kim:) I get why some people didn't care for it, but I thought it was gritty but hopeful, and I just adored Alexa. There's not the huge world-building you usually find in fantasy, but I liked that about it too. It felt more intimate, even if I do still have some questions. It's a series though, so I feel like some questions are allowed at the end:)

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  11. I agree! I had decided not to read this one because it has been all over the blogosphere and I just couldn't get a good feel for it. I loved your review though and I think I'm just gonna have to read it for myself to find out!

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  12. This totally sealed it!! I was on the fence before, I added it the other day, now I'm in total HUNT mode!!! LOVE your review!!! And I'm glad you clarified the triangle to Christy :D I don't mind them when they're for the story.

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  13. This is the 2nd out of the ballpark review I have seen for this book. I am going to get it for my friend Wendy :)

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  14. Okay, you had me curious yesterday and now you present me with this review? You know I'm drooling now for the book, don't you? Oh and there have been only 2 other series that I thought the triangle worked... so I'm not totally flabbergasted that there is another, but pleasantly surprised. Yes! So glad it works here. MUST HAVE THIS BOOK! *wipes drool*

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  15. Brilly review as always Jenny. I so appreciate your positive insight into this one. I also am pleased to hear that the love triangle was tolerable for those of us who are sick to death of them. Thanks for helping to clear the air regarding this title.

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  16. I've seen reviews all over the place for this one, and I'm so happy to see your thoughts are positive because I really want to read this one! Now I can justify it :-) I always love when romantic entanglements aren't milked for soap opera style drama and instead develop as naturally as possible, with no game playing and honesty from the characters. Character driven fantasy is my favorite sort. I think this is going to be a win for me. Lovely review!

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  17. Why do you keep posting about these amazing books?! Don't you know I can't afford a longer TBR?! lol Great review!

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    1. LOL - I know! I hate it when bloggers keep torturing me with books I should read - there's only so many hours and dollars in the day!!! :-)

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  18. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I've heard a few mixed things, but all the characters (especially both guys) sound awesome. I'll definitely be picking up a copy of Defy. Amazing review :)

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  19. I'm glad you loved this one. I'm a bit wary of the love triangle, but if it's well done like you say, maybe I'll be okay with it. I hope so, since the rest of the story sounds awesome!

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  20. Glad you enjoyed it! I'm always happy to hear when a love triangle works, because when I read about them in the synopsis I'm wary. The setup of this book reminds me a bit of Tamora Pierce, so I'll definitely be picking it up. Thanks for the review!

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  21. I wasn't too thrilled of the idea of a love triangle but it sounds well done since everybody involved has known each other for years and because Alexa doesn't play games. I've seen some negative reviews for this one, but I guess I'll give it a try and hope that I love it as much as you, Jenny :)

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  22. I recently watched the entire seasons of Game of Thrones (loved it!) and this book is giving me a GoT vibe. Alex reminds me of an older version of Arya and I'm very curious to know more about her. The love triangle is a bit repetitive and overdone, but I'm so glad that Alex atleast makes her choice known to the other guy. Great review, Jenny! I'm definitely going to look out for this book :)

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  23. LOL - I've got nothing original to say here, I agree with everyone else in that I'm sick of love triangles and I've seen a lot of either "loved it or hated it" reviews. So glad to see a "loved it" review b/c it does sound like a great book and I really love the cover!

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  24. JENNY!!!!!! :D ITS BEEN SOOO LONG SINCE WE LAST TALKED! (I'm to blame...or rather school's keeping me busy! Haha! ;p) I'm slowly catching up with everyone so I don't up a recluse. lol ;p

    Can you believe I actually haven't heard of this book/series before today?? What's up with that? But it sounds fabulous. Exactly something I would enjoy. I honestly loathe love triangles but I can appreciate well-defined characters and in that sense their relationships with one another. So even though there is a love triangle, hopefully it wont bother me as much when I give this book a go. I'm really looking forward to meeting Alexa. She sounds badass and I love badass heroines! They ALWAYS make stories all the more enjoyable. (For some reason I keep thinking this book reminds me of She's the Man gone medieval. LMFAO..XD) Sorry random thought...

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this Jenny! Absolutely fantabulous review! :D

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

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  25. It thrills me that you loved this one so much! I'm getting the sense that there isn't a huge amount of world building, but the story is much more character driven. I'm glad that this heroine is someone you found that you could root for, and that the love triangle isn't filled with obnoxious waffling. I'm definitely curious about this book - even more so now, but I'm going to hold off reading it with the sequel (i'm assuming there is one - or multiple) just to make sure there isn't a lot of back and forth in the love situation. My poor heart has grown so tender lately. Great review! I can feel your adoration of this book coming out through your words.

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  26. I just came across your site and review- and Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed Defy, too. I really enjoyed it and agree with so many of your points. So many bloggers, didn't seem to feel the same as far as the love triangle and Alexa's character. I adored this book and glad you did too. Great review :)

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  27. Ok, I wish I had read your review BEFORE I started reading this book. I like the story well enough, but I DESPISE the love triangle and Alex(a)'s continued swooning of the two boys. I'm more drawn to the plot, the sorcerers and the grand plan of trying to overthrown the evil kingdom. I wish the romance would take more of a back seat.

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