Review of Defy by Sara B. Larson

By: Sara B. Larson
Release Date: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Barnes and Noble

An electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

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?

The Story:
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.

The Characters:
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.

Final Thoughts:
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.



  1. says

    Great review, Kristen! I’m glad that you managed to enjoy it despite the few issues that you mentioned.
    I saw it on NetGalley and was about to request it when I saw the “thrilling love triangle” and thought to myself – thank you, but not thank you! I clearly I’m not one of those that thinks that love triangles are a good thing or something to look forward to!

    • says

      Thanks Pili. I think it’s worth a read because I think the series will get better as it continues. I hope the love triangle aspect is dropped. I wonder–are there readers out there that really enjoy love triangles? I never see anyone saying they love them…but for it to be marketed that way makes me think there is an audience that eats it up.

    • says

      I’d say less than Infernal Devices (which is an acceptable love triangle to me because it was done so well). This one is much less–I can tell you via DM or something so as not to post a spoiler.

  2. says

    Ah. I’m glad you actually managed to enjoy this book 😀 Happy for you. <3 But holy crap. Yeah. I will never ever be able to read it. NEVER. Not just because of the love triangle, but because you mention that whole blushing thing all the time. And the other things that annoyed you. Sigh. But anyway. I loved your review 🙂

    • says

      Yea, the blushing was too much for me but I’m hoping some of it is edited out in the final version. Overall the story was very interesting just needed a tad bit of work to flow smoother. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. says

    Wow, reading this gave me MAJOR déjà vu!! My review hasn’t gone live yet (it’s scheduled for next Friday), but I gave it the exact same rating, and made many of the same points you did. I totally agree about how unrealistic it would be for Alexa to fool so many people into thinking she’s a boy for so long. Those two weeks when she was being escorted back to the capitol or whatever? With two MALE guards? Yeah… as if she never had to go to the bathroom that whole time. (I’m just saying…) -_- The worldbuilding was also really confusing and unclear for me, most of the time. Like you, all I got was “jungle”. And I never really understood anything about the war they were fighting either, except that it had been going for a very long time. (I think… even that was sketchy for me.)

    But I’m a sucker for a good girl-disguised-as-boy story too, lol. Alexa was great (when she wasn’t blushing over Damian’s surprisingly buff body, hah), and the pacing was definitely fast enough that I never felt bored. I’ll be interested to see what the sequel is about, because I actually thought this book wrapped up pretty well…

    • says

      haha, that’s awesome that we felt the exact same way–great minds think alike 😛 So glad I’m not the only person that questioned her not being noticed by those men (drove me nuts about the using the bathroom). Maybe the next book will dive into the world building more because I think there is an interesting story there.

  4. says

    I’m tempted to grab this, I love girl in disguise stories haha. But yes, the love triangle. Glad to hear it’s just mild. Also, really glad to hear that the story was fast paced & didn’t end in a cliff hanger! Funny that Ryland stuck out for you because he was flat rather than interesting. The love triangle sort of reminds me of Throne of Glass…probably because there’s a prince haha. Great review!

    • says

      thanks Cyn, you should grab it if you want a lite fantasy that is fast paced and wraps up nicely. I think it is worth the read for sure. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on it

  5. says

    I am reading it now and I think it is hilarious, but I completely skipped the first line when I read the synopsis. I’m thinking I wouldn’t have picked it up! I’m sad to hear we don’t learn more about the world, because I’m picturing a taped up version of Throne of Glass and Fire & Thorns right now.

    • says

      I’m glad you skipped that first line so you picked it up because even with its faults it is a fun read. 🙂 Hopefully in book 2 the world will be explained further.

  6. says

    Yep, I agree with everything you said. Interactions were stilted and that mention of a love triangle had me on edge, but I never felt it had any credence. Even if she had feelings for one when the story began, those waned as she developed feelings for the other, which is not a true triangle to me. Not that I’m complaining. I’d much rather the triangle be more or less non-existent. I liked this one but didn’t love it, so I’m hoping the sequel really reels me in.

    • says

      I agree…the love triangle was far less present than I expected. I hope the sequel is more in depth and explains the world a bit more. Thanks for dropping by Jen!

  7. says

    Wonderful Review!! I didn’t even looked twice at this book because the cover looked so boring that I didn’t care to know more. Then, I have a hard time with scholastic books lately and often end up disappointed. But this one is a book I’m definitely checking out!

    • says

      I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it Danny. I thought it was a fun and easy read. I have high hopes for the sequel. Very interested to read your review when you get around to it. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. says

    If a book is going to tout its love triangle, I could more easily handle an adjective like “subdued,” rather than “thrilling.” Thrilling, in this case, usually means ridiculous.

    I’m glad you pointed out how difficult it would be to avoid detection while out in the wilderness. I also wondered what would happen if Alexa needed medical treatment. Not a very well-thought out plan!

    • says

      Right? I kept wondering about her bathroom breaks…and those quick dips in a stream? I don’t know…just seemed not thought out enough for me. Totally agree about the adjective ‘thrilling’ not sure what would be a love triangle ever thrilling.

      I probably rated this one a bit high by the sheer ease of reading and I’ve gotta admit…I was straight up in the mood for some light reading when I got into this one. One of those-right books at the right time moments.

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