Series: Defy #1
Published by Scholastic, Incorporated on 07-01-2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, General, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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?
On the day Alexa’s parents are murdered, Alexa and her twin Marcel know she runs the risk of being sent to the breeding houses. Driven by desperation, they make a snap decision to cut her hair and disguise her as a boy, and the two of them are enlisted into the army instead.
Three years later, Alexa (known as Alex to everyone else) has worked her way to being a senior member of the Prince’s guard. A spectacular swordsman, she’s known as the one to beat, but when a sorcerer breaks into the palace, even Alexa can’t seem to hold him off. Alexa, Prince Damian, and fellow guard Rylan are captured by the sorcerer and dragged through the jungles to a fate unknown (but probably not good).
I have to admit, I was really nervous about reading Defy, because I’d read a few very negative reviews. I was really drawn in by the blurb though, and so I ignored the reviews and dived in. I’m so glad I did because I ended up really enjoying it.
I really liked Alexa. Not only is she deadly with a sword, she’s great with a bow and arrow, she’s smart, loyal and she’s dedicated to her duty. Despite all these good points, she’s definitely not perfect. At 17, Alexa’s body is becoming more noticeably feminine, and it’s getting harder for her to keep her secret. As well as that, puberty seems to have hit Alexa all at once – she’s never had a problem working with so many men before, but now she’s suddenly blushing and flustered by pretty much all of them. At times she was a bit like a walking bundle of hormones which was frustrating, but I liked the rest of her character enough to put up with it.
There is definitely a love triangle in Defy, and I occasionally did feel like it dominated the plot. Having said that, the blurb makes it abundantly clear that you should be prepared for a love triangle, so I knew what I was letting myself in for! I didn’t honestly love either of the love interests yet, but I was intrigued by them.
Prince Damian has always come across as a jerk – condescending, aloof, and sometimes downright rude. Alexa’s feelings for him were a bit too sudden for me, although as we begin to see more of his good points, we do see some depth to him, and some justification for her feelings.
Rylan is a fellow guard, and one of Alexa’s best friends. I liked him, but he wasn’t particularly unique (so far at least). He is the loyal best friend who’s long since had feeings but never spoken up. I’d like to see more of him, and see him differentiate himself from so many similar love triangle thirds.
I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I will say that I thought the way Alexa’s secret was handled in terms of the love interests was a bit too convenient.
I really enjoyed the plot,which had a lot more intrigue and suspense than I anticipated. The true politics between the nations aren’t initially clear, and I really enjoyed the slow piecing together of the motivations behind the war. The fantasy elements are subtle and gradually introduced, and I’m definitely keen to see more in the next book.
Although I had a few issues with Defy, overall I really liked it. I think it’s a great debut, and I could see it developing into a fantastic YA series reminiscent of the likes of Maria V. Snyder.
Buy it? This is one that’s worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: A promising start to a new series, full of twisted politics, intriguing characters, subtle sorcery and a good dash of romance.