Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Defy (Defy #1) by Sara B. Larson
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: January 7th 2014
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

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?
(from Goodreads)

Bah I'm so conflicted writing this review because I wanted to like Defy so much...but ahhh! It wasn't awful, but it could have been a lot better. I did enjoy it overall, perhaps more than I'd like to admit considering the problems I had with it, but I can't help thinking it the premise had so much potential that was just wasted.

Alexa started off as a pretty likeable character. She was the best of Prince Damian's guard, she seemed to have a good sense of humour and I loved her relationship with her brother Marcel. But then Marcel died (WHY did he have to die, I really liked him) and Alexa learnt that actually, even though she had been trying to hide the fact she was a girl for years, TWO people actually knew her secret. Coincidentally, these people were her friend Rylan, and the Prince himself. It was so obvious that Damian knew as well, I was just WAITING for him to tell her the whole time. And it was from then on that things changed. First of all, I hated that when Alexa realised they knew she was a girl, her whole personality seemed to change. She kept thinking she was worthless, she was constantly apologising for stuff she didn't need to apologise for and I just didn't like the way she thought being female was a weakness. NO IT BLOODY WASN'T. I get that she had to pretend to be a boy to survive, but that didn't mean women weren't good for anything except having children and looking pretty! Ah! It just annoyed me. I liked that she was a good fighter, but I didn't like how she thought the only reason she was valuable was because she could fight and that if she couldn't, she was "weak".

Next, the romance. There was a lot more than I was expecting, so if you're really not a fan of a focus on romance, that might put you off. Alexa's two love interests were Rylan and Damian. Rylan found out Alexa's secret from the start and so knew she was a girl all long, whereas Damian claimed he somehow worked out she was a girl very early on (HOW though, Damian? HOW). I wasn't a massive fan of either of these boys, though I probably marginally Damian. I didn't really get why either of them liked her so much (and vice versa) - we never saw what parts of her personality they liked, or what they were attracted to. It was all just, "Oh, Alex, I love you!" and it left me a bit confused. Damian at least got a bit of character development; he wasn't actually as spoilt and selfish as everyone thought he was, and though he found it really difficult to trust people, he had put his hope in Alexa. Rylan was sort of just left to be the jealous one who I thought didn't really have much chemistry with Alexa.  He was a nice guy, and very loyal...but I literally knew nothing about him except that he liked Alexa and he had a brother. He just needed more development. And while I did enjoy a few of the scenes with Damian and Alexa (they definitely did have chemistry), I was kind of put off by how much Damian lied to her. I know he felt he had to protect her, but come on. He was just lying! That being said, certain things were so obvious that Alexa really should have worked them out. She seemed so preoccupied by these two guys vying for her attention, she seemed to forget the situation she was in. I mean, they were captured by the enemy and she was mostly worrying about her love life. I must admit though, I could understand why she was conflicted - Damian was Prince Damian and she was supposedly a male guard, and even if they managed to survive and return home, he would be expected to marry for political reasons one day, and she would never have a place in that part of his life. I think what happened at the end made a lot of sense (though I was surprised Damian didn't see right though it) and I'm curious to find out what will happen in the next book.

Plot-wise, there wasn't as much going on as I thought there'd be. A lot of time was spent captured travelling through the jungle and I could have done with some more action - though when there was action, I do think it was done well, and I really enjoyed all of Alexa's fighting scenes. A lot of the twists weren't that difficult to guess but I didn't mind so much seeing as I liked where the story was going. The world-building could have been better, but to be honest, I'm not a massive fan of huge long descriptions of what stuff looks like, so as long as we find out in the future why certain things went on, I'll be okay. 

Overall, Defy was worth reading and entertaining, but could have been so much more. If Alexa's female side wasn't portrayed as a hindrance so much (though to be fair, she did become more accepting at the end) and the romance wasn't so back and forth and was a bit more developed (like WHY did they all like her so much? It was almost insta-lovey despite the fact they'd both apparently liked her for years), I think would have liked this book a lot more. As it is, I did enjoy it, and would recommend it if you don't mind a lot of romance - unfortunately, if you're looking for something more fantasy with less of a romance focus, then this book isn't for you.