Debut Novels · High Fantasy · Historical Fantasy · Net-Galley · review · YA · YA-fantasy

Defy – Sara B. Larson

17406847Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press
Source: Net Galley


I just finished this book, not even am hour ago (I’m writing this at 6:12 am on the 28th of December, 2013). And I felt compelled to review it immediately lest I lose all the thoughts that have accumulated in my mind about this novel.

So, first things first, I did not like this novel.

Disclaimer: I am not being mean. I am stating an opinion that I will attempt to expound on below.

Right, this novel is about a pair of twins. Goodness, I’m reading quite a few books about twins recently and managing to not like all of them. As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, this book is about twins and we meet them in a very compelling prologue. The brother and sister pair have just witnessed the deaths of their parents and other loved ones at the hands of the enemies (who are soldiers from a neighboring country). In the horizon is the approaching army, friendly, ostensibly but we know better. No kingdom that has a breeding house is one I want to be present in but it provides a legitimate motive for the brother to chop off the sister’s hair so that they can both be twin brothers and join the king’s army. So they do and then we forward four years later where they have both been promoted to be the sulky crown prince’s private guard.

And banzai! The story is off to a grand start. We meet Alex nee Alexa as she beats the living crud out of her brother. They are sparring. This is what bored soldiers do. And because Alex is such a special snowflake, she was able to beat the captain of the guard, a man probably five times her weight (I don’t think they give soldiers much to eat), years of experience and toughness. Of course, she was too young to be made the captain so she remains their best fighter and without any real power. Excuse me while I smirk. This is not really a spoiler but the only character who could have salvaged the story for me was killed about 5% in. I’m talking about the brother because apparently it is a law in YA fiction that no siblings may co-exist without one dying by painful and often traumatic means. Yeah. I don’t understand the brother’s purpose, really, he was killed off so soon that I am still wondering why he was even present. Anyway, let’s move on.

As soon as the brother’s gone, Alex becomes Alexa and just ugh. It’s like she switches personalities or something. The whinefest begins and does not end. The love triangle goes online with vicious determination. The crown prince, of course, and the fellow guard who has silently loved Alexa ever since he heard her brother call her by her real name. And you know who she goes for. There are scenes where she is sleeping in the middle with the two boys surrounding her because they have to share a tent. And then she’s smooching one of the guys while the other one, who has confessed his love to her only earlier that afternoon, is sleeping on the other side. There is “aching need” amongst other things and kisses with both guys to spice things up because lord forbid Alexa act with something other than her hormones.

Right. For a book that started with such promise, its deterioration (for me) was swift and vicious. The novel changes from a story about the interesting politics in a fantasyland to become a soap opera about who will choose who and when someone will be betrayed as they are wont to be. Also, handing a girl a sword and giving her the skills to wield it does not make her a strong badass character. A strong female character does not need to even hold a sword to be badass. She needs to show true strength of character which Alexa (or Alex for that matter) did not show. The novel falls victim to a whole host of clichés and uses contrived circumstances to build pallid relationships that eschew slow and careful character growth for forced romances. I really cannot recommend this though I am sure that there are people who will love this. The novel just was not for me.

8 thoughts on “Defy – Sara B. Larson

  1. Oooh no not again :( I am so tired of YA being nothing but love triangles in the end, even when it has a promising start. It actually makes me fear for my own chances of getting published with my non-romancey YA. I guess this stuff must sell but it is a shame authors/ publishers seem to think they have to rely on it.


    1. Tell me about it. My project has zero romance and I’m almost three quarters done. The chances of getting published seem slim but eh, there’s always hope that someone will take it on someday. So we will write and someday, we will conquer.


  2. “…handing a girl a sword and giving her the skills to wield it does not make her a strong badass character. A strong female character does not need to even hold a sword to be badass. She needs to show true strength of character…”

    Yes, this! I feel like this shortcut to “strong female character” is an epidemic in YA and it really saddens me. There are so many ways to explore strength of character beyond physical fighting and yet… this is what we get so frequently.


  3. “Excuse me while I smirk.” I feel you there! You know, I’ve never read this book – and I’ll take your word for it that it’s totally worth passing over – but I just finished Throne of Glass last night. This review literally reflects just about every thought I had about that book. So I feel your pain.


    1. Right?! I mean, why is it so difficult to portray a female assassin/soldier realistically. She doesn’t have to beat men twice even thrice her size. Or she can but it can be with her mental acuity. Authors need to convince readers of the soldier/assassin’s brilliance in a logical manner to make it believable. I was not impressed with Throne of Glass at all.


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