Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Defy - Sara B. Larson

Defy book cover Sara Larson
Defy by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks, Scholastic!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my 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? (from Goodreads)

Defy had the makings of a solid fantasy debut, but it still fell short of my expectations. It could have been its similarities to many other fantasies. This is a book rife with court intrigues, smart subterfuge, magical twists and romance. It should have worked well for me, particularly since main character Alexa sounds like a Pierce-like heroine. Sadly, it did not.

It's been a couple of days since I read Defy, but it is only now that I've figured out why it didn't work. What this book really lacks, in my opinion, was believability. There's a certain authority that makes believe a story is true, and that never happened here. There was also the lack of connection with any of the main characters, one that runs deeper than the typical concern one would feel during their escapades.

Defy did read fast and kept me preoccupied for the better part of a Saturday. It might not have stood out among the other fantasy novels I've read, but I can't honestly say I hated it. No, I was just disappointed by the fact that it didn't really leave a mark. There were definitely good characters and a story with potential, but I was simply unconvinced. I'm certain that there are readers who will like this, though.

17 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I thought Defy was very disappointing, and not exactly the Alanna heir I was hoping. But you're right, it did entertain in an odd. Way. Still, I think I ended up with a more negative impression than you did. Those "breeding houses" didn't sit well with me. So sad, since I know how much you (and I) love high fantasy! Sigh.

    You hit the nail on the head with the believability. It was definitely lacking that.

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    1. Oh, the breeding houses DEFINITELY did not sit well with me! They had me sad, appalled and VERY disturbed indeed. Just thinking about it now makes me squirm with horror.

      I just didn't find this book particularly memorable. It definitely didn't help that I didn't believe in the story nor connect with the characters.

      Sigh. Will anything EVER live up to Alanna though?

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  2. I totally agree. I wasn't even able to finish Defy, sadly. I was also not ok with the breeding houses. Everything left a bad taste in my mouth. Too bad! I was excited about it.

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    1. I was excited about it too! It sounded like precisely the type of book I'd love. While I was able to finish it, it really just left no lingering impression on my mind.

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  3. Yes, I still haven't finished yet. In fact, I've barely made a dent in it -- I'm just not getting into it at all! And it's so surprising because I adore high fantasy and the premise sounded so good! It really sounded like it'd be right up my alley. i'll push through and see...

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    1. See, that's EXACTLY what I thought when I started Defy! I was reading it and it was moving along okay, but I just didn't fall for the story or the characters or anything at all, really.

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  4. I actually liked this one quite a bit. Not as much as other fantasy series I've read, but I thought it was pretty solid. I liked watching Alexa figure out who she really was and what everything meant for her. And I really enjoyed Prince Damian. I didn't really see the point of Rylen though. I felt like he was kind of a filler character. I definitely think there was room for improvement but I'm hoping that the story just gets better as the series goes on.

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    1. You make a very valid point, Rebeca! Alexa's journey unfolded throughout the book, and that was a pretty solid point in its favor. However, I'm not overly fond of Damian or of Rylen. Hopefully you're right and it gets better in the second book!

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  5. I've seen so many negative reviews of this one it kind of made me give up the idea of reading it but it doesn't sound too bad. I love fantasy too, so I can see why this one fell flat for you.

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    1. I know that my review sounds negative, but I will point out that I at least managed to finish this book. That's something, isn't it? While it wasn't for me, who's to say it won't work for other people?

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  6. I've seen a lot of negative reviews on this book this week! :( Believability can definitely make or break a book for sure! I probably won't read this one. I was excited about it, but I've seen way too many negative comments from people I trust to bother reading it. Thanks for taking one for the team!

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  7. I'm so sorry to hear that this book didn't quite meet your expectations, Alexa! I don't typically respond well to the fantasy genre at the best of times, so in all likelihood this wasn't a book I would have picked up, but it's always sad to see when a novel falls a little short of the mark. I could certainly understand your feelings, particularly when you mentioned a troubling lack of connection with the characters. Characterization is one of the most important aspects of a novel for me, and if I fail to connect with the characters, I'll have a harder time enjoying it as I never feel truly invested in the story being told. While it's clear you didn't mind the novel, it seems as though this book will leave any lasting impression. Unfortunately, it's that sort of inorganic, unexplainable 'special something' that can either make or break a novel and turn it from a 'good' book into a 'great' one.

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  8. I'm still mad at this one! I DNF'ed after only a few chapters and I NEVER do that. I was so annoyed, and DEEPLY disturbed by the "breeding houses." Sad because that premise sounds awesome. I'm so sad it wasn't believable. It sounds like the execution just wasn't there on the author's part, and that's always such a let down. Thanks for the honest review, girl!

    Molli | Books and Whimsy

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  9. I think I have the hardest time with the fact that she hid her gender for so long in such close quarters.... I still enjoyed it, but that part of the story was a bit of a stretch.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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  10. I've read the reviews for this one and I'm glad I never requested it for review (though it was on my mind a couple of times, because fantasy!). But fantasy is a genre that needs to be really well-developed, or it won't work for me. And a lack of connection to any of the characters is what would definitely make me feel disconnected from the rest of the story as well. Characters are so important to me, and while I don't necessarily have to like them, I need to feel SOMETHING. I'm sorry you didn't really like it.

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  11. Interesting! I have heard rave reviews and I have heard ragey reviews but I haven't really read one that said that Defy kind of fell short of their expectations. I am sorry that it didn't leave a mark for you, though! I will definitely not be adding this one back to my TBR!

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  12. I'm sad that you found this one disappointing, but I'm really glad that you were able to pinpoint what you didn't like. I'm not a huge fantasy reader, so I think I'll be avoiding this one since there are some really great options out there that are more worth my time.

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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