Author: Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Publication date: January 7th, 2014
Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.
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?
I received an e-copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I have found myself on a debut author kick recently and am trying to branch out and get to know different authors' writing styles. There are so many different facets to them and there are good and bad writers (a lot more of the latter when you attach the word 'debut' to their title). Sara B. Larson is a name I heard a lot about after her book Defy came out. I had gotten the e-book for review but with how large my pile is it seemed to have escaped my review schedule. Of course, I had to rectify this and the medieval fantasy vibe of the book intrigued me to no end.
Alexa, the female protagonist of the story, has had a raw deal her whole life. She has had to pretend to be a boy in order to escape an evil dictator of a king's breeding houses. In these breeding houses girls who have matured enough to procreate are used and abused by the king's soldiers in hopes of creating more and more troops for his army. Alexa's twin brother, upon watching their parents burn to death, decides in flash to make Alexa into Alex, his mirror image by cutting her long hair and putting her in boys clothing.
Alex, determined to survive adapts quickly. She even exceeds expectations by becoming one of the best swordsmen of the Prince's royal guard. Her duty is to protect the haughty Prince Damian from harm, however, when an attack is made on the Prince's life, Alex risks exposing herself to protect her honor and her charge. It is only after she, another guard, Rylan, and Prince Damian are captured that she learns that Rylan's affections may not be as brotherly as she first thought and the Prince's fleeting softening may not simply be because of a trying situation. She finds herself caught in the middle of two men she longs to trust but fears she never will. Can Alex protect herself from discovery, free herself and her men, and find a way to help her kingdom thrive?
Alex is a wonder of a woman. I could not imagine having to watch every move I make or every word I say to remove all feminine quality from them. I couldn't fathom having to live a lie for years just to avoid being raped and tormented my entire existence. Alex is a crazy strong heroine who I found incredibly likable. There were a few characters that I was supposed to like that I just couldn't. One was namely Damian. He just struck me as a weasel of a man with nothing but manipulation in his personality. Rylan seemed the more true at heart and the better match for Alex as she navigated the tough waters of her capture and internal strife.
The love triangle hurts me a little. It truly does. If I were a guy and I was feeling a little something-something for my boss or soldier buddy beside me, I'd be a little skeeved. I'd start wondering if I may be a little gay. Nothing really wrong with that, but... I'd question it, oh, I'd question it. In this book... not so much with the questioning. Odd. To avoid spoilers I will just tell you that you will find out in the book WHY that is and it just leads to further disappointment really. If the book had lacked the romantic aspects of the story, it would have been a fundamentally greater book.
Defy is a classic gender-bender bred and nurtured in a medieval world full of evil sorcerers, ruthless kings, and the pursuit of freedom and honor.