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Life, Law & Libros

Defy by Sara B. Larson eARC (1 star)

Defy is Sara B. Larson's debut YA novel and my first eARC from NetGalley. I was a little wary of picking up this title based on the emphasized romance in the synopsis, but I took a chance. I think I can best sum this up as Mulan meets Twilight. Alex is masquerading as a boy in the army/Prince's Guard and there's a magical background and a love triangle. Had the story focused in on the Mulan elements, I think I would have liked it. Unfortunately, it was almost all romance and love triangle.

This copy was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may be changed in the final version.
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on January 7, 2014
Published by Scholastic Press
Final Rating: 1 star

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?

What I liked:
  • I was interested in some of the supporting characters, namely the other members of the Prince's guard; they seemed like fun guys with a lot to bring to the table, and I would have liked to learn more about them.
  • I'm still confused about this fantasy world (South America-inspired? South Asia? India?), but I liked the general idea of two warring nations with an imperial catalyst and magical soldiers in the middle of a jungle. Again, though, I wish there were more. The lack of world building made it difficult to invest myself in the world's politics and wars. It wasn't fleshed out enough.
  • Marcel, Alex's twin brother, and Rylan, a member of the Prince's Guard and Alex's friend. I don't know whether Marcel was a "genius,' but he seemed to be a good big brother and I'm a sucker for those characters. Rylan was a genuinely good-hearted guy, loyal and understanding. He would have been great except for a certain piece of dialogue near the end that resulted in my taking away his Man Card.

What I didn't like:
  • Alex/Alexa: She is supposed to be an unbeatable fighter who has been in the army and passed for a boy for years. Her narration and actions made this premise completely unrealistic for me. There was no way she had not been exposed as a girl after three years in the army/Prince's guard unless her brother was both Einstein and Houdini.
  • Perspective: Alex's narration sounded like a hormone-crazed, lovesick teenager. I think the story would have been more enjoyable in third person point-of-view or from a different character's perspective.
  • Telling v. Showing: The majority of the first-person narration centered on Alex telling us stuff, often romance related. There were few fully described, played out scenes; and the scenes we did get often centered on her romantic interactions with the love interest(s) instead of the war, kidnapping, etc.
  • The Romance: I don't like love triangles, and in this case, there was nothing to be angsty about once Alex made a choice ... which she did. But then she kept whining and agonizing over it. It got old fast, especially when there were matters of life, death and country at hand.

I was pretty disappointed with this one. The story had some interesting ideas, but they were never fleshed out and took backseat to romance. In the middle of a war and being kidnapped. Alex was supposed to be a butt kicking soldier, but all she thought or talked about was the love triangle. She was the poster child for women who over-think relationships and, on several occasions, a damsel in distress. Apparently there's a sequel in the works, and I hope it does more world building and explains more about the magic system.


  1. Looks like an interesting book. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. You're very welcome! Unfortunately, I wasn't the right audience for this one, but it still had some interesting elements and I'm sure there are readers out there who will love it. :)

  2. Haha, is this the one that you were talking about in the comment? I've been reading a lot of negative reviews, so you're definitely not alone. I actually completely avoided this one because of the description mentioning the love triangle and I'm so glad that I did! I hope you don't take this as a representation of eARCs though, there are always the good and the bad right? ;-)

    1. Yep, this is "the one." I saw some of the negative reviews and was very wary ... but it was a "Read Now," and I was hoping this was a case of the synopsis overemphasizing the romance. Obviously not the case, so probably not something you would enjoy. ;)

      And no worries. I know there are lots of great eARC's out there. I'm actually reading another right now (White Space) that's a little more psychological than I've read in a while, but very interesting thus far.