Thursday, February 27, 2014

Defies Your Expectations

Would you be able to hide the very nature of who you were? What if it meant an actual life vs. being used and abused until you died an untimely death? In Sara B. Larson's Defy,  a young girl named Alexa must become Alex in order to stay alive in a world full of hate and corruption.

When their parents were killed by sorcerers, Marcel took his twin sister outside, cut her hair, and transformed her life. Had she stayed a girl, she would have been captured and taken to the breeding houses to produce more soldiers for the king's never-ending war. Marcel doomed Alex to a life of terrified hiding in plain sight, but he saved Alexa in the process. Now they train together, they are inseparable, and they are part of Prince Damien's guard. While it is hard to care much about an apathetic prince like Damien, Marcel and Alex are serious about the duty to protect him, even if his father is a monster who has destroyed the lives of every person in his own kingdoms and the kingdoms around them. 

After an attempt on Damien's life, the king and his adviser, Iker, put a guard in Damien's room at night. When Alex is chosen for the detail, she is terrified he will notice things about her if he spends too much time in close proximity to her. Hiding the fact that she is a girl is paramount to survival in this world. Almost as much as hiding the fact that you are a sorcerer. When Damien asks Alex to deliver a message to a rebel camp not far from the palace, she realizes there are sorcerers all around them. While they assumed they were relatively safe inside the palace, a group sent to kidnap Damien changes that perception. Damien, Alex, and her only friend, Rylan, are taken by a group who means to end the war, even if it takes great sacrifice. 

I really liked this story, but there were also some things I just didn't like. For instance, Alex is a by-the-book super-soldier who could fight better than any man on the prince's detail. She rocks. But when she is kidnapped and Damien and Rylan know her secret, she becomes a quivering pile of goop that ignores any attempt to save her prince and instead focuses on how much she wants to kiss Damien. Oh wait, now she wants to kiss Rylan. No, Damien! No, Rylan! Back and forth, back and forth. I don't mind love triangles, but I do mind when they distract from a really good story and the already established nature of a character, which it did with this story. I was so surprised by how much of the story this love triangle consumed, and if you plucked it out, the story would have been spectacular. I loved the history between the kingdoms, the surprising nature of Damien, how Alex had survived for so many years hidden as a boy, the sorcery, everything! But it felt overshadowed by the pining over two men, which directly defied the nature of Alex. She managed to keep her composure after the death of someone near and dear to her, but she couldn't control her lust for these two guys? It surprised and disappointed me. 

That being said, I really liked this story. The love triangle was annoying, but I still really liked the world, the characters, the history, and the magic. There were twists and turns around every corner that were a little predictable, but fun nonetheless. I really look forward to the second book in the series, because there is so much left to be said and read. I think this "love triangle business" will fade away, because there is certainly one clear winner in that battle. But hopefully, like all good love triangles do, it will work itself out and leave you happiest with the solution. This was a fun fantasy for all types of readers. The language is average, but occasionally the material is pretty brutal, like what happens in the breeding houses. I would use this for older readers, but the language would make it appropriate for readers with struggling skills. 

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