Sunday, January 12, 2014

Defy by Sarah B. Larson


Title: Defy
Author: Sarah B. Larson
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published: 7 January, 2014
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance
Source: Netgalley ARC

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?






Well I certainly do, and for me, that's a pretty bang-on description of how I felt because of this book.


Defy had so much potential. Straight after reading the first section of the blurb, I knew that I wanted to read this book. I didn't pay much attention to the part with the romance and the vying for Alex/Alexa's heart, because I had already presumed romance would play a part. I mean, it's almost a given nowadays, with YA fiction. I expected the more important aspects to dominate and was okay with a little romance being tossed in. And plus, it reminded me of Mulan. I love Mulan!

Unfortunately, my expectations were met for only a short period of this book.

So Defy, as the blurb explains, follows Alexa who has had to hide her identity and pretend to be a boy just after her parents are killed by an evil, fire-wielding sorcerer. She and her brother, Marcel, who devised their plan, join the King Hector's army and soon, they're the best of the Prince's personal guard.
From chapter one, I liked Alexa. She seemed so badass, what with her stubbornness, and her ferocity, and her being able to take down each and every other member of Prince Damian's guard. She was the strong female protagonist, who's story I was really looking forward to following. It was obvious that she had been hardened by her tough experiences and I was excited to dig deeper into her character.

I felt like the author, Larson, started off really well with this character. Slowly but surely, she added the layers of necessary character development and it seemed to be really fitting together. But then she lost sight of the character she had in mind and began going off on tangents. After Marcel's untimely and rather touching death, she stayed strong. After Damian's first surprise reaching out, she remained stoic. She was focused and determined and strong. But all of a sudden, she was wondering how Damian's lips would feel against hers, and how Rylan's body was more built than Damian's, and all that stuff. I just felt that it was out of nowhere, and that was where Larson really began to falter.
I noticed this sudden change in Damian too, though his was more realistic.

Only other characters I believed to have been significant were Rylan and Lisbet. Even Iker, seemingly the antagonist, wasn't even built upon. It felt like Larson spent three-quarters of the book with King Hector as the primary 'baddy' but changed her mind at the last minute. It would have turned out better, had the author taken a bit more time to dwell on how bad Iker really was.
Also, the whole attempted love triangle just didn't work for me. First of all, Alexa's inconsistency meant that she went from hating Prince Damian on one page, to falling head over heels, watching him sleep, on the next. Alexa's desperate attempts to trust Damian, though it sometimes seemed she was looking for reasons not to trust him, grew annoying kinda quickly. I also felt that Rylan, his feelings for Alexa, and her very confusing feelings for him, were just thrown into the mix to spice up the story. But it was doing fine without all that!
It was disappointing because I really liked Alexa, before all the indecisive loving began.

I can't deny that I also really liked parts of the book, too. Put the romance out of mind for a second and the majority remaining was really good! I loved all the fighting, and the action, and the fantasy sword-play. It was exciting to read, especially where Alexa trains to defeat sorcerers, and then finally goes up against Iker. The action, as well as the smooth flow of the plot, and Larson's great descriptions really brought some chapters to life. There were times that I was reading and just had to stop and read a sentence over and over. Because the descriptions were just on point man! For example, earlier on in the book, one of my favourite quotes was;

"The blackness of the night was like a living thing, breathing in hope and expelling terror."

I really enjoyed putting the descriptions to use and imagining the story in my head. Though the world building also sorta lacked, I think this could be made into a cool movie, minus the excess drama and romance of course!

Overall I actually liked this book, but think it could have been improved in many ways.



I'm pretty sure they're still giving out eARCs to everyone on Netgalley, so go check it out!
If you have already, what did you think of it?

Thanks for reading guys, until next time!