Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 336 (for kindle edition)
Publication date: January 7th, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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?
SECRETS, LIES, DISGUISES, OH MY
Everybody seems to have a secret in this book. Nothing is as it seems—everything from a tapestry to a whole kingdom. There are hidden identities and surprising relations and secret plans throughout the entire book. Deception is key. It's one of the biggest elements of the story, and it kept things pretty interesting. I found it fun to uncover secret after secret kept by the characters. Most of them surprised me.
Alex (or Alexa) was an awesome heroine! She was strong from the very start, but I thought she became even stronger by the end of the book. I really liked her personality—headstrong and loyal—as well as her journey to finally accepting her true identity. I thought many of the things she went through and many of the new feelings she was feeling (i.e. the romantic ones) were necessary for her development and changes throughout the book.
I know some of you may be worried about the romance in this book. You may have heard it's an insta-love, but I didn't think the romance was that insta-love-y. The romance just worked for me. It didn't wow me, but I did really like Alex and Damien together. I saw their chemistry from early on and starting rooting for them, and when they finally starting acting on their feelings, it didn't feel off or too quick for me.
As for the triangle . . . to me, it wasn't a huge one (I'm not very good at sensing when they're really big parts of the story, though). Sure, there are two guys with feelings for the main character, but I only saw Alex have a true romantic connection with one of them. I will warn you, though: the romance seems to be the biggest issue other readers have with this book. I liked it, but I may be in the minority.
I saw hardly world building happening. It would've been really nice to learn more about the world/setting the characters were in, and I especially would've liked to see more background on the war going on. I didn't know much about it.
Defy is a great book. My only big complaint is about the world building, but other than that, everything about the book worked for me! I really liked the characters and the secrets they held. I really liked the message I caught about accepting our true identities under all the false fronts we put on to make others believe we're different people, and I always find it neat to gather an important message through a book. I really liked how surprising the book was—I was a little wary of it before I started reading, but I quickly abandoned that wariness as I got more and more into the story.
Do I recommend reading it? Yes. I really do.
My questions for you:
What is the best fantasy book you've ever read?
Have you ever not seen a love triangle as not very love triangle-y?
How much do negative reviews affect whether you'll give a book a try or not?