“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?”
– Taken from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17406847-defy)
This was a really promising read, but it did have its shortcomings. I’ll start with the world building. Usually, in high fantasy books, where the story is set in places that do not exist in the real world, the reader is given some descriptions of the country, the landscape, as well as an overall idea of what’s going on there. In Defy, I felt that the world building was insufficient to allow me to visualize the setting of the story. We are given some bits of information, that’s true, such as the fact that the country has a huge jungle, as well as a very brief description of the population (olive skinned etc). But I wanted more of a backstory, especially when it came to King Hector’s conquest. If the population was so mistreated, why were there no rebellions? I also find it odd that a violent conquest was so easily accepted by the local population.
As for the characters, let’s start with Alexa. She started out as a tough girl who pretends to be a boy. There are some odd moments in the beginning, especially considering that she is a girl living and sparring with guys. At points, it got quite creepy. But then she seems to slowly unravel after her secret comes out. At the end, she toughens up once more. As for Damian, I have one big issue with him. If he’s so closely watched, how come no one found out all of his secrets?
Moving on to the plot. Right from the start, I had the nagging feeling that important things were not given the attention or the importance they deserved. Marcel’s death, for instance. It should have been a devastating blow, but it didn’t come across as such. Another was the breeding house, which is also related to the world building. Wasn’t it challenged? I don’t believe that orphan girls being taken in to breed would be tolerated well by the population. And yet, there was no mention of discontent caused by the breeding house. And the role it actually played in the story wasn’t made clear. Furthermore, I felt, at point, that the chronology was too rushed. One day, Alexa was crossing half the country on a dangerous mission. The day after she got back, the prince was attacked and one day after that, kidnapped.
Up to this point, this review probably gives the impression that I didn’t like this book. That’s not true. I enjoyed it quite a bit. If I hadn’t, I would have dropped it. In spite of what I’ve written above, this was an entertaining read which kept me distracted for a couple of hours. I guess that the writing style didn’t click enough with me to make me ignore the negative aspects. It was a close thing, though. At points, especially toward the end, my heart raced and I swooned a little bit, thanks to Damian.
It’s a fast-paced read, full of twists and nice quotes (stupid me didn’t highlight any of them…). The ending was not entirely happy, but as there is a sequel in the works, I’m hopeful that the ultimate end will be happy. And yes, the sequel is already on my to-read shelf.
I’d like to thank Scholastic and NetGalley for kindly providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5