Don’t laugh, but I was really excited to read this book because when I read the blurb the first thing I thought was, this is going to be an awesome version of Mulan! I may or may not have been singing Mulan songs in my head this entire book…..
I feel very conflicted over this book. I think writing the first book in a series is always the hardest for authors. Especially debut authors. You have to reveal enough information about your characters to make people care about them without revealing too much, but also get people addicted to the long-term plot to continue reading the series. I think it’s really challenging to get the right mix because in the beginning no one cares about your characters and you have to do some major character development which is definitely more boring than the action in the plot. (Also, the main reason why I have problems reading the first books in many series…)
Props to Sara B. Larson on the writing in this book though. The writing was really easy to read. That was nice. She wasn’t trying too hard and it was readable. I find that typically debut authors have issues with horrible writing but Larson did a good job. Also, Larson managed to throw in a couple $20-words without sounding douchey and presumptuous….
So, let me introduce you to Alexa and her brother Marcel (btw, I love that name). They are twins who, when their parents were killed by a evil sorcerer, escaped to become soldiers in the King’s army and then became part of Damian’s (the prince) personal guard. Alexa cut all her hair off and became Alex and is the best soldier in the guard. The harsh reality of the world of Antion is that under King Hector’s rule (Damian’s father) there has been an endless war with a neighboring country and all boys fight in the war while all girls are sent to breeding houses to bear future soldiers.
K, hold up. So, lately, I’ve been having problems believing the worlds that authors create in their novels, but the world that is created in Defy is actually pretty good. I didn’t even question the validity of it; I was too disgusted with what was actually happening. Larson made me care about the world and the people of Antion.
Back to the story, so of course you’re wondering when the love triangle comes in, right? Right. So, Alex becomes Damian’s personal guard, and after an assassination attempt is required to follow him everywhere he goes. Damian is SUPER secretive and Alex isn’t really sure what his deal is, but when he asks her to deliver a message to a rebel camp she takes this opportunity to gain the trust of the Prince who she has increasingly noticed is a very attractive guy. So Alex takes her soldier-friend Rylan with her on this journey and he ends up telling her that he knows that Alex is really Alexa. But then before anything happens, the prince, Alex and Rylan are taken hostage by Antion’s enemies. BUT ALSO, Damian knows Alex’s secret and tells her that he likes her. Then Rylan is like: crap, I never told her how I feel, how can I compete with a freaking prince?? And thus, I present, the love triangle struggles.
The story itself was pretty creative, and once there was some action and the twists and turns started appearing, I enjoyed it. But until that point, it was major character development and kinda boring.
Me after being introduced to every male character in the book:
This is a complete exaggeration, but it felt like Alex liked every guy that we were introduced to as readers. This sorta annoyed me at first, but then it clicked. If I was 17, and I was surrounded by attractive, muscular, soldier guys, I would fall in love with all of them too. So, touché, Alex, you win, you’re surrounded by attractive men.
On to the characters…
In the beginning, I loved Alex. Mostly because I loved the interaction between Marcel and her. Alexa was strong, she didn’t take crap from anyone and she resented it when people treat her differently when they found out she was a girl. And I liked that about her. But, she started to slip a bit towards the middle-ish/end of the novel and became a little wimpy, but that could have been all the hormones raging inside her from all these attractive men.
This is a weird one, but I’m actually Team Rylan. I think he is sort of the underdog in this series but I really like him. I can tell he really cares about Alex…not to say that Damian doesn’t, but I find that Rylan’s attempt to win Alexa’s heart is much more endearing and authentic.
I don’t GET Damian. I don’t. At first he talks to Alex like this:
And at the end he’s talking about her like this:
SERIOUSLY. WHAT IS HIS DEAL!? I get it, but I really don’t at the same time. And also, why all the secrets?!
The most frustrating thing about this series is the relationship between Damian and Alexa…mostly because I see it happening and I’m like:
Maybe my anger means that I actually care a lot more about this book than I’m letting on. I don’t know. BUT AARRGGHH.
Also, I hate to say it but Damian and Alex may have a case of insta-love.
Horrible, I know. I think this was the hardest thing for me to get past in the book. If I got past this I think I would have liked this book so much more than I did.
I had such high hopes for this book, and it sort of let me down. Not to say that I hated it, but there was definitely room for improvement.
At first when I was reading this book, I was willing to let the plot slide a little because of the potential for the rest of the series, but after finishing the book I have no idea where the series is going. There were no long-term plot issues that still needed to be resolved and there was no cliffhanger at the end, besides our friend the love triangle… But I don’t think that’s enough to make me read the next book.
Defy by Sara B. Larson ARC courtesy of Scholastic