Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Book: Defy by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Released: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 336 pages (Kindle)
Rating: 2 out of 5


From Goodreads:
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?
*First of all, thank you to Scholastic for sending me this book via Netgalley*
Sigh. I had SUCH high hopes for this book. It was even on my TTT for 2014 releases I was dying to read. On the surface this book had lots of things I like: Gender-bending, mystery, historical-like setting, royalty. Sounds like it would be a home-run for me, right? Wrong. So wrong. And I'm sad.
 This book reminded me so much of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce, but uh not nearly as good. The love triangle in this story pretty much took over the entire story. While I love me some romance, I don't want it to be at the expense of the rest of the story, which is what happened here. It was so promising in places!

The book starts off which Alexa and her twin brother Marcel (hmm, sounds familiar... cough Alanna and Thom cough) seeing their parents die. To avoid being sent to the breeding house, which I'll discuss in a minute, they chop of Alexa's hair and call her Alex so she can join the army. The main story picks up 3 years later when Alexa Alex is part of Prince Damian's elite guard.
Alexa is not as awesome as Mulan.

Let's jump back to the breeding house thing for a minute. I HATED this. And not just for the moral/obvious reasons. The breeding house is where all girls are sent to be raped until they become pregnant to produce more soldiers for the army. Ugh. 1) The war has only been going on for 10 years. This doesn't need to happen. There should still be lots of men to choose from before resorting to this. 2) Alexa needed something to be afraid of (other than snakes), and *this* is the thing you come up with? 3) Yes, it's evil and it conveys how awful King Hector is, but there's lots of other ways to accomplish this other than objectifying women. 4) There's no in-between on women. It's either the women being raped, or Alexa. That's it, really. Even the other somewhat strong women characters in the story have major weaknesses.

Alexa started off as a really strong character. I respected her decisions and her strength as a fighter. I even had sympathy for her during the death of a certain character, which was necessary, but I didn't like the execution. So then, THEN, the love triangle gets introduced, and overtakes the entire story. On one side you have Stefan Salvatore Rylan, who is one of the other elite guards with Alex, and on the other side is Damon Salvatore Prince Damian. How will she choose? There's lots of discussion of their eye color and how she gets lost in their eyes. Or their hot bodies. 
One of my favorite parts of gender-bending stories is the reveal. The "reveal" in this book sucked. Because SPOILER Both Damian and Rylan already knew that she was a girl and had been in love with her from the beginning. END SPOILER. I just, ugh. I hated this whole love triangle. Plus, it's totally obvious she likes one a lot more than the other, but won't be with him because of REASONS. Snooze. I stopped caring, especially when you talk about it every 10 pages.
What I wanted to do upon the 3587475 mention of how she can't decide who to pick
The one shining part of the love triangle is when she's forced to sleep between the two of them. Awkwardness and hilarity ensue. I wish more of the book had been like this. It was a great scene.

Can I also say how much I despised some of the name in this book? Blevon is a horrible name for a country. And Tanoori? Blah. And General Tinso? Ick. 

So yeah. Totally disappointed with this book. The first 30% started off strong, and then they enter the jungle, the love story takes over, and it becomes fairly predictable. Even the BIG SECRET is totally obvious and I knew it the entire time. So yeah. 2 stars. And you should just go read Alanna because it's fantastic and does everything right that a gender-bending, love triangle, save the kingdom story needs to do. Or watch Mulan. Another solid choice.


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