Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Defy (Defy, #1) by Sara B. Larson

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?

Fantasy, romance, magic and adventure, this story has it all!  As debuts go, Larson certainly lived up to the hype that surrounded the release of this 2014 young adult series opener.  I always get a little anxious when it comes to debut novels, because there's always so much pressure for it's delivery.  The young adult genre is packed with wonderful and promising books that readers are eating up left and right and to break into that category requires material that readers haven't come across before.  And the fantasy genre is saturated with so many titles that while containing characters with different names and story lines that might vary a little, for the most part there can often be find titles that really aren't too different from others.  Obviously there is plenty of innovative material out there or none of us would be reading anything new, but still, it's a hard act to follow and Larson surprised and impressed me with her unique and inviting world.

While different is good, one familiar staple never gets a complaint out of me, and that's a great love triangle.  Larson has presented her readers with a new world to explore and fabulous characters to fill it out.  Alexa may be posing as a male soldier in order to obtain the position she wants in the king's army, but she's a heroin that gives others a run for their money.  A fighter with a will or iron and a persevering spirit that is never found lacking, she makes it hard for others to keep up with her.  Resisting her charm and wonderful personality traits is ridiculous and I truly enjoyed watching this story play out through her point of view.  When it comes to a love triangle everyone always generally gravitates to one side or the other, vying for the main character to choose who the reader has favored.  I'm usually no different but I'll admit Larson through me for a loop with how much I tossed and turned over which male lead I liked more.  My mind was constantly changing and as the plot developed, along with the characters, it was impossible for me to establish a concrete side.  And when the readers are having a hard to choosing for the characters, how can I expect an author to narrow it down so easily?

Despite everything that these characters face throughout this series opener, questions remain and of course cliffhangers of a sort were presented at the end, and I was spinning.  What a wonderful debut to be introduced and now the countdown remains for the second installment in the series, Ignite, which won't be released until January of next year!

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