Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: August 15th 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.
At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.
As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
I’d like to start this review by saying that I loved this novel to bits. Well, okay, not to bits because I have no idea what bits have to do with loving. Or what the bits of a novel are or where that particular phrase comes from. Let me start again.
Defiance proved to be everything I look for in a novel that I read for entertainment. This is not to say that it is perfect and flawless but when you like something despite its flaws, I reckon it’s a good thing. A very very good thing. For me anyway.
I expected Defiance to be straight up fantasy but it surprised me (tricked me!) by having dystopian elements, er, dystoapocalyptic elements to its setting. The settlement in which the story takes place for the larger portion of the narrative came into existence after some grand destructive event tore apart the existing civilization of days long past. Oh and as is more than insanely common to these dystopian novels, the status of women in this new civilization lies somewhere between roadkill and a precious jewel locked up in a vault. (I’m getting remarkably tired of this particular trope if you can’t tell.)
Defiance succeeds for me in its characterizations. Usually character development, while being important, does not constitute as the sole element that determines the success of the novel. But in this case, Redwine’s characters are so compelling and so intriguing, moving beyond the limits of the pages to occupy tangible space in your brain, that you cannot help but read their story and accompany them in their destiny determining journey. As a rule, I dislike novels where the chapters are narrated in alternating perspectives. I find them jarring and disruptive to the rhythm of the novel. Surprisingly though, this was not the case in Defiance. Perhaps it was because the way the novel was written or perhaps it was the way each chapter was constructed but whatever it was, I was never frustrated by perspective change. Logan’s voice was just as engaging as Rachel’s and it was both their voices coming together to create the cohesive story that is Defiance.
Let me take a moment to appreciate the title. It so succinctly describes the entire novel without giving anything away. The villain is not a grey villain, his motivations are not revealed to us, and he doesn’t have a backstory or anything that makes him remotely human. He is black in and out and you know what? I’m fine with that. I am fine with hating him as passionately as the novel calls for because had Redwine taken the modernist approach and given us a Loki, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did.
Rachel’s emotions are superbly expressed. Her wit and spunk are juxtaposed with heartbreaking vulnerability and immaturity. Her grief and the expression of it is realistic without resorting to unnecessary pathos. She is a flawed character and they are the best kinds. Her unraveling is convincing and I can’t wait to see how she develops in the next few books. The romance is heartwarming and while there is no overt love triangle throughout the novel, the beginnings of a very intriguing one begin to coalesce at the end.
So let’s see, complex characters facing complex conflicts, a rapid pace and a satisfying plot. Sweet romance that does not take over the primary narrative and a satisfactory conclusion (that whets the appetite for the next book in the series). This book has it all. For a debut, it’s remarkable. Strongly recommended.