Book 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?
I’m going to be frank being in the book review world I come upon a lot of author debuts. Some are very evident that they’re a debut (lack of editing, story building flaws and so on) and some are so gobsmacking beautiful that you think this must be the authors 5 or 10th book. That was the case with Defy by Sara B. Larson. After finishing I immediately started to look for other books by the author and was completely floored that this was her first book.
First, I have to say that typically YA fantasy is not my cup of tea, however, from the very first page, Defy hooked me in with its elegant prose and strong female lead.
Alexa is a young girl forced to pose as a male (Alex) in order to avoid the fate of the breeding house. A disgusting pseudo whorehouse that sees young girls used as breeding cattle for the kings army. But Alexa is no ordinary girl she is a master swordsman and along with her brother secures a spot on the Prince’s guard.
From here the story continues weaving in sorcery, heart stopping fight scenes, and yes swoon-worthy romance. In fact my only gripe (and it was small) was with the ubiquitous love triangle but really that gripe was minor.
Alexa/Alex was a fearsome fighter, what I liked about this book was that it focused on her strength, and inner qualities and did not focus so much on outward beauty. I feel like in many YA novels the focus becomes too much on the female leads looks and with Defy you have a strong female character that can wield and fight better than all the boys and yet still manages to captivate.
This story had so many twists and turns and I truly loved being immersed in that medieval world. The ending was beautiful and heartbreaking and for a second I was overwhelmed that this was a stand alone novel but thankfully it’s not (yeah Defy #2!).
I noticed some negative reviews on Goodreads and frankly they baffle me. This book was poignantly written, had fantastic world building, a strong capable female lead, and a romance to root for.
I literally “Defy” anyone not to pick this book up and love it. I sure did.