An electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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 off, let’s talk about that first line in the summary, “A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.” Those last three words had me this close to not downloading this title. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles and ‘thrilling love triangle’ is really not a phrase I want to see in the first line of a summary. Regardless, I downloaded the e-arc and am happy that I did because overall Defy was an enjoyable read. For those wondering, there was a love triangle but it was fairly mild. I wasn’t really rooting for either romance to take off and the descriptions and interactions were the least effective aspects of the novel to me based mostly on the many cheesy descriptions of the men’s eyes and frequent blushing on our heroine’s part.
I really enjoy a good story about a girl or boy hiding in plain sight by pretending to be the opposite sex. For the most part, this twist was handled well but there were instances where I really wondered about the logistics of how Alexa being a woman was not noticed by those around her. Case in point…being stuck out in the wilderness for weeks on end and her not needing to shave her face. These little instances stood out to me and I really wished I could believe her being unnoticed.
The pacing in Defy was fast and I was interested to know what was going to occur next. Throughout the entire novel I felt motivated to keep reading and was happy with the path the story ended up taking. I felt that Larson did a great job writing her action scenes and felt the suspense and action as I read. Defy thankfully did not end on a cliff hanger and the main story line throughout the novel was wrapped up yet there were hints to where the story will go in the next book.
The world building was a bit scarce and I didn’t grasp much about the surroundings other than that they were surrounded by a jungle. Some of the history of the realm and why things are as they are was described but I hope that in book two we get further depth.
Defy is told in Alex(a)’s point of view and hers alone. I found her to be an interesting character to follow and I enjoyed thinking of her as a wonderful swords(wo)man and second in command in the Prince’s Guard. I loved that she was strong willed, loyal and an amazing fighter. I did have a few problems with her more romantic side though and as the story progressed and the romantic angle became more important my opinion of her character wavered. The strength I enjoyed started to wane and she seemed a tad on the whiney side.
The writing felt stilted and awkward for many of the interactions between Alex(a) and Rylan and Prince Damian. Many descriptions (warm brown eyes, blushing, etc) were repeated often enough I was ready for some different adjectives. Since this was not a finished copy I hope that some of these issues will be edited out and will make for a smoother reading experience.
Overall, I found the majority of characters to be interesting and look forward to delving deeper into their stories. Really, the one character that stood out for me was Rylan–I found him to be the flattest character and I had a hard time caring about his character.
Defy had a lot of potential and there are aspects that I really enjoyed such as the pacing and action scenes. Some of the character interactions felt stilted to me keeping me from fully getting behind any romantic aspects. I wasn’t overjoyed there was a love triangle and would prefer for it to be focused on less as the series continues. I will be reading the next book in the series because though I had some issues it was an enjoyable read.