Defy by Sara B. Larson
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? (Goodreads)
To save her from an uncertain future as a woman under the rule of their king, Alexa’s twin brother convinces her to live as a boy. Together they serve in the king’s army as personal guard to his son, Prince Damian. Alexa, now known as Alex, becomes adept at living as a man, even rising the ranks to be considered the fiercest warrior among her group. She earns the respect and trust of her counterparts as well as of the Prince himself, who keeps her close as a favored guard.
Even though Alex is strong and wise, she can’t outdo a powerful sorcerer who enters the castle one night, taking the Prince, herself and her fellow guard, Rylan, captive. It seems as though she and Rylan will be unable to save the Prince as they’re marched through the jungle toward an ominous future. Through this journey Alex struggles to keep her identity a secret and has to hide her attraction to Prince Damian. She’s not entirely sure who she can trust and she has to be on her game, ready to fight at any given moment.
I really liked this book. In fact, I was very puzzled to read some of the negative reviews I saw on Goodreads (they’re not all negative. Most are very good).Yes, there have been comparisons made between this book and the story of Mulan. I get it. Girl dresses up as a boy and lives life as a soldier. But that’s the end of the similarities there ( I think. I’m no Mulan expert, trust me). To me, there was something here that reminded me a tiny bit of Graceling. Maybe it’s because Alex was a very strong heroine, both in her moral character and in her physical abilities, much like Katsa.
In any case, I thought Defy, apart from any comparisons made, was an excellent book. There is a lot here, between Alex’s story as she hides her true identity, the Prince’s family and his story, the kingdom itself and the corruption that lives there, and of course, the dear friend Rylan who’s in love with Alex (he knows she’s a girl). At its heart, Defy is a love story. There are great moments of tension and kissing, there are questions about loyalty and where Alex’s heart should go. I loved every part of it, from the fights, to the uncertainty about who to trust, to the actual romance. This was a good ride.
Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 This one is fun. I’m eagerly anticipating more.
Thank you to Net Galley and Scholastic for providing me an e-galley of this book!
I don’t normally read GR reviews unless my friends have written them, but again, I was astounded at some of the things people where saying about this book.
In the beginning we find out that Alex, in changing her identity, is saved from the fate of every other orphan girl of the kingdom: life in a breeding house. This where the corrupt king and those men who truly serve him, rape and harm young girls in order to breed future soldiers. It horrifying to read and imagine, but that’s clearly how it’s meant to be perceived; that’s how the author conveys it. At no time does it seem like Larson is glorifying that portion of the story or is saying that’s all women are good for, in fact, in Alex’s life she’s showing that women have great strength and potential. Alex is the strongest soldier, able to beat anyone. Yes, she internally lusts after the hot shirtless prince more than once. Know why? She’s a teenage girl. With…gasp…hormones. Her attraction to a guy doesn’t make her any less of a strong woman. It doesn’t affect her ability to do the right thing. On the contrary. Alex can be all girl, can fall in love (or lust) with a boy and still kick ass.
I thought Larson very clearly showed the difference between women who are oppressed by men and women who are able to fly free. This book is obviously not a vote of support for rape or breeding houses. It’s not saying that girls can’t be around guys without drooling overt their shirtless abs. It’s a story. Simple as that. And a good one. But I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Stepping off the soapbox now.