Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson (Blog Tour & Giveaway)

Posted January 10th, 2014 in Blog Tour, book review, Giveaway / 18 comments
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Defy Series #1

by Sara B. Larson

Publisher: Scholastic Press (Jan 7, 2014)
Genre: High Fantasy, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Format: eARC (336 pages)
Source: Free book from publisher (NetGalley) for honest review
Find It: Goodreads | Amazon Print | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository (Affiliate links)
Rating: ★★★☆ (4 stars)

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?

At A Glance
Despite it’s faults, I ended up really, really enjoying Defy. It’s was fun, creepy, and interesting.

The Good
I do complain a lot in The Bad section, but at the end of the day I almost gave Defy 4.5 stars. It just had all the elements I like in a young adult fantasy book: an interesting world, determined characters, and good action. It’s even more high fantasy (which is not my genre of choice) and I still loved this book. You may have to be in the mood for a YA book to enjoy Defy, but luckily, I was in the mood.

Alexa/Alex did great with dealing with messed up situation after messed up situation. She acted like a boy for years to avoid the breeding houses (Yeah, you heard right. A place for orphan girls to be raped over and over again so they can pop out more soldiers for the war) She became the best soldier and royal guard anyone had ever seen. She has that fighting instinct and she knows her way around almost any enemy. In essence, she was kickass all the way! Though I didn’t like when Alexa became a little weak when boys started paying attention to her (and her secret was out), I think Alexa held true to her duties, her sense of rightness, and her determination to take down the bad guys. I admired her. She felt fear, which is healthy, but she never let it get in the way of her job.

Though Prince Damian wasn’t my favorite person, I did love how much more depth there was to him then I first thought. He was just as determined as Alexa to end the war and stop the evil. He really did do anything and everything for the people he would one day rule. I wish Rylan had a bigger part in this book because he seemed so sweet and caring. Even when his temper flared, he always had Alexa’s back.

There are some horrific happenings in the world of Defy. I literally shivered when Alexa had to take a trip to the breading house. That crap is messed up, and sickening. And the people who were responsible for this suffering were just horrendous. Talk about a disgusting soul. I never wanted someone to go down as hard as I wanted these certain people to go down, preferably in a painful and bloody way. The world Sara created was both beautiful and harsh. And the ending was perfect in my eyes. I will for sure be continuing this series.

The Bad
I did find some things that were skimmed over obviously for the fact that it would have been impossible for Alexa to hold on to her male disguise if brought up. I wish Alexa was more convincing as a boy, but she wasn’t. I never truly believed she could fool people into thinking she was a boy because even on page I didn’t believe it.

I was frustrated with Alexa’s attraction to Damian. He acted spoiled in the beginning and then largely distant and secretive for the rest of the book. I don’t know about you but a stolen kiss or two does not make someone fall in love. There was no substance to this “relationship.” Plus, Damian made Alexa weak in my eyes. She lost some of the fighter in her because of her attraction to him.

The world building was lacking some. Also, I did feel that juvenile quality in the story sometimes. Like I was very aware I was reading a teen book.

The Snuggly
The love-triangle seemed a little forced and totally convenient, but in the end, I enjoyed it. I am not as against love-triangles as some people are. Though Damian was not my cup of tea, I saw why Alexa liked both Damian and Rylan. I think any male attention is fun when you had to pretend to be a boy for so many years. Both were cute and both seemed to actually like Alexa. There was nothing more than kissing, a very clean book, well, except for the breeding houses. *shivers*

Final Thoughts
This book won’t be for everyone, but it was damn sure for me. There was just something special about it that easily took me away from the real world and into a fantasy adventure of awesomeness. Highly recommended.

“True beauty is what lies inside of us, not what the world sees. A beautiful shell that houses a vile soul becomes sullied over time. But an outer shell, imperfect as it may be, that houses a beautiful, shines with that beauty, radiating it for all who have eyes to see.”  

“Have you ever heard of the theory that it is better for one man to die than an entire nation to suffer? Do you believe that to be true? Is it ever okay to take a life in hopes of saving others?”  

“You’re perfect,” He said roughly, cutting off my protest. “And if I had to do it over again, I would save you every time.” His mouth closed over mine and there was no more thought. No more worry. No more pain or loss or fear. There was only Damian. His arm tightened around me, crushing me to him. I clung to him as his lips moved on mine with a need and hunger that nearly overwhelmed me.”  

My eyes widened when I realized I’d been staring at his body. My cheeks flamed, making me grateful for the low light of the candles. “Sir, you’re covered in sweat. Are you taking ill?” I asked, keeping my voice low and gruff. Manly. It was as good a cover as I could come up with. No one looked like that unless they exercised—a lot.

“I’m in perfect health.” He shot me a wicked grin. “As you may have noticed.”

Author Bio
Sara loves writing, reading, and dessert–but the order varies by the day. She wrote her first book in second grade about a woman who had a premature baby, complete with a “to scale” drawing of the baby’s size–while her mom was pregnant. To say she was a bit precocious is putting it lightly. Now that she’s an adult, she writes books for teens that have magic and romance and kick-butt girls (and very few premature babies). She lives in Utah with her husband, two young sons and baby girl. She writes during naptime and the hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims that she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” On occasion you will find her hiding in a bubble bath with a book and some Swedish Fish. she is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary and her YA debut DEFY is coming January ’14 from Scholastic!

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18 Responses to “Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson (Blog Tour & Giveaway)”

  1. Elisa

    Fun, I LOVE Tamara Pierce and this book sounds a little similar to her female characters – there is one that dresses like a boy too, but because she wants to be a warrior, not because of the breeding house thing…sounds good

  2. Ashley

    Bleh, that sucks about the relationship. And I personally hate love triangles. 😛 It does sound like an interesting book though. I like the idea of female warriors (and OMG those breeding houses! God..).

    I feel like I can’t decide if I should read this one or not. Sometimes an annoying relationship like that can turn me off a whole book.

    • Jennifer Bielman

      See, now with you, I don’t know if you will like this one. I think the relationship is very important to you in a book and I thought that aspect was just okay in this book. Hmmm, I am not sure at all if you should try this one.

  3. sherry fundin

    I love the cover, but hate love triangles. From your review, I think this would be an interesting book. The breeding house make me curious. I love female warriors and being pissed off. lol Thanks Sara and Jennifer for a great post and giveaway.

  4. Jaclyn Canada

    This one absolutely has my attention. When you said you would’ve rated it 4.5 stars, I knew it would definitely have to go on my to-read list. The breeding houses idea makes my skin crawl so the thought of rising up against that would make me want to cheer the characters on for sure. Wonderful review! Jaclyn @ JC’s Book Haven.

    • Jennifer Bielman

      True, I hate hearing about such horrible places but I love when they are taken down too. If I wrote this review right after I read the book but with almost a week of thinking, I did realize there were more things that bothered me than I first thought.

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