Krista Reviews: Sara B. Larson’s – “Defy”

Larson_defyA 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?

Kindle Edition, 336 pages

Published January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press

When her parents are murdered and the twins are to be taken to the castle, Alexa’s brother decides to chop off her hair and have the captors believe she is a boy. As a young female, she would otherwise be sent directly to the breeding house, a place where young girls are abused to produce more children for the kingdom.

Alex loves and hates her situation; she enjoys fighting and residing in one of the better positions at the castle. She is better off there with her brother than either outside among the people, or in the breeding house. Her brother is a fierce competitor and stands by her side until she must face her life alone.

She is placed in a precarious situation when she is appointed the direct guard for the Prince himself, but when they are kidnapped her whole world starts to crumble.

The initial story set-up is perfect. It got me interested in Alex, her dangerous position as part of the guard, and the fact that her secret could be found out at any moment. One misplaced wound during a fight or a simple slip of the tongue could do her in. There is an obvious hostility that she holds for the Prince, the King, and the King’s staff. She is always having to watch what she says. This world has different lands with different people and we don’t get to meet all of them. There are wizards and magic and a focus on good versus evil.

There is some travelling during the novel where the pace slows a little. The drama intensifies as the characters get a lot of one-on-one time and reveal their true personalities. The plot develops and plot twists takes hold. During these periods of travel we see a different side of Alexa, one that experiences emotional turmoil and is very different from the one we have known.

I was pleasantly surprised by the twists that this story took. It kept me intrigued and guessing how it would end. Despite this, there was a small section in the middle of the novel that kept me from absolutely loving the story. I would still recommend this book for the main character and her strength and abilities. Through most of the novel Alexa was very much a heroine that I could root for; I just loved her. She has to fight through her own insecurities and shows the true meaning of the word heroine.

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