Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B Larson
Published Year: 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy
"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?"
(Big fan of that cover though, let me tell you).
I love me some fierce sword-fighting skills I must say. I wish there had been more fight scenes and a little less brooding, but I still enjoyed this story. I was drawn into the story and the world, though many things were still unexplained and seemed be included just because. I would have appreciated a lot more world building, but I understand that since Alexa didn't know certain facts, the reader can't know them either. However, there were some pretty random things that were greatly explained, and then others that were completely glossed over. I didn't feel a balance and I didn't really understand the world.
Additionally, I felt really distant from the characters -- including Alexa. I couldn't really identify with her and I wasn't getting a lot from her that I felt was special as a reader. I knew as much about her as any of the characters to whom she wasn't showing her true self (aka nothing). Slowly, I got a little bit more from her as the story progressed, but not near enough. I would definitely have appreciated some more depth to her and the other characters. The interactions between the characters seemed stilted as well, and I couldn't even identify with how they related to each other.
Unfortunately, there's not much I can say about the plot without spoilers but it was okay. I knew exactly where the main plot line was going, and the little side things that could've made it more interesting were underdeveloped. Could've done without one of those pesky triangular subplots, but what are you gonna do? It's a popular theme in today's YA, so I guess I should get used to it. Doesn't mean I have to like it, and it was pretty pointless in Defy. I would've been happier without it (ahem, worked out fine for Mulan).
At the beginning, Alexa was fearless, unbeatable, and fooling every single one of them. She was channeling the Let's Get Down to Business song from Mulan, had her twin brother by her side, and everything was great. Except the country was at war, yadda yadda. But then all the things had to happen, and I felt like her character rescinded instead of grew. I enjoyed it enough to pick up #2 (Ignite), and I sincerely hope her character comes back with a big upswing.
2 out of 5 stars.