Defy by Sara B. Larson
Published by Scholastic
Reviewed by YA Sisterhood's Mom
The Sisters (and Mom) say: Fantastic, A Must Read!
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 DEFY you to read the first ten pages of Sara B. Larson’s DEFY and not be totally hooked! I definitely am! This is Larson’s debut novel and WOW does she know how to enter the literary world with style!
First, she has created a plot that literally magnetizes readers of YA. Alexa and her twin brother Marcel are children when they are taken captive by the King. Knowing that the fate of male captives in this kingdom is to be forced into the army and female captives to serve as breeders to increase the size of the King’s army, Marcel chops off Alexa’s hair and she becomes “Alex.” Now it is four years later and both seventeen-year-old Marcel and Alex, through extensive training, are members of the Prince’s Royal Guard. In fact, Alex has proven to be the best fighter in the guard and after an assassination attempt on Damian, the Prince, Alex must guard him night and day. Alex begins to notice that the twenty-three-year- old Prince puts on the appearance of an apathetic, spoiled son of the King, but she alone finds that it is simply that—an appearance. But in a kingdom where to defy the king is a mortal mistake, can she trust Damian? Should she keep his secrets? And even more frightening, will he keep hers?
Larson’s characterization of the protagonist is AMAZING! Creating a character who must believably blend a male role as Alex and female as Alexa is quite challenging. Larson builds suspense not only through the life and death conflicts she faces but also in the situations in which Alexa is placed, where the reader just knows she can never pull off the charade of being Alex. However, Larson’s twisting of the plot creatively does so successfully.
I do have to admit that the breeding houses were disturbing, but I applaud Larson for handling it tastefully. You have to admit that just to mention young girls imprisoned for this is horrific, but the lesson it teaches to teens far outweighs the uncomfortable subject. Does it need to be in the book? Definitely, yes! We have to understand from what atrocity Alexa’s masquerade is saving her. And, finally, Alexa shows us that no matter the reach of evil into a country, everyone has a responsibility to fight that corruption.
The ending was so powerful! Even though it is set up for a series, it actually has a conclusion and doesn’t leave you with a heart rending cliffhanger for which you have to wait for months, yet you are still ready to read more about amazing Alexa. So I am hopping on the Larson Locomotive, definitely a fan, and I DEFY you to resist coming aboard, too!