Sunday, April 13, 2014

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Cover art for Defy by Sara B. Larson
Defy by Sara B. Larson, pub. January 2014, 336 pg.
It’s pretty early in the year, but I can confidently say that I’ll have a hard time finding a new release in the upcoming months that I enjoy as much as I enjoyed Defy by Sara B. Larson. Defy is Larson’s debut novel, and it’s an incredible story full of wit, magic and romance.
When evil sorcerers destroy her village and kill her parents, Alexa Hollen must pretend to be a boy to avoid a life in the breeding houses – brothels where underprivileged girls are forced to get pregnant for the sole purpose of expanding the king’s army. Years later, she is the best fighter in Prince Damian’s personal guard. She has guarded the secret of her true identity, but after she, the prince and one of her fellow guards are kidnapped, she learns some people know the truth about her.
After years of suppressing any type of romantic feelings for fear of being discovered, Alex suddenly finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle. She must learn how to navigate the world of romance while doing everything in her power to save her country from evil.

Alex is one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is extremely strong, both physically and emotionally. She lives her whole life with the burden of a gigantic secret that could get her killed, but she’s still a friendly and entertaining person. While she struggles to admit when she’s wrong and ask for help when she needs it, she knows what her weaknesses are and isn’t afraid to address them. Basically, she’s the type of girl we all want to become.
The romantic subplots in Defy are extraordinarily well done, and it’s especially great because Alex all of a sudden has to deal with two suitors after a lifetime of thinking she’d never be able to be openly in love with anyone because everyone thought she was a man. Most people start honing their flirting skills as young teenagers, but she never had that chance which leads to a number of mixed signals and uncomfortable encounters. She also struggles with her feelings for the two men who are romantically interested in her. She is forced to figure out what she wants from her life and if either of them would even be a good match for her.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the way Larson incorporated action and magic. This is very much a fast-paced fantasy novel, but Larson deftly avoids making either of these important elements feel heavy-handed. I’ve found in other books that authors can sometimes over-do the action sequences or use magic as an easy way out when they’ve written themselves into a corner. In Defy, however, neither of these elements feel like plot devices. The action and battle scenes are flawlessly incorporated into the story, and magic is more of an ever-present threat than a useful tool Alex or her friends use to get themselves out of sticky situations.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a novel that will sweep them up and hold them captive until it’s done. If you’re anything like me, Defy will make you lose all track of time and priorities because you won’t want to stop reading. Luckily, a sequel is in the works for 2015. It can’t come soon enough!

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