Whether it’s YA or Adult, High Fantasy is a genre that always gets my attention. With this pretty cover and interesting synopsis, I couldn’t wait to start reading Defy. Okay, the mention of love triangle got me a little worrying, but girl disguised as a boy in Prince’s guard? I just had to read it! The story started off very promising. Alexa is one of the best Prince Damian’s guards and nobody knows she’s a girl, except her twin brother Marcel. The Medieval-like kingdom is shockingly horrible and cruel to women. There are breeding houses, where girls get raped, so they get pregnant and provide more warriors for King’s army. It’s really sickening, but it gives Alexa a good reason why she’s pretending to be a boy and an even better reason to stop the war.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book, but then the love triangle started to take over. Alexa knew which boy she wants to be with almost from the start, but she was still doubting and overthinking her decision to the point where her love life was starting to be more important to her than the issue of war and death. I also missed more details on the worldbuilding. As a fan of High Fantasy and imaginary worlds, I wanted to know all about it: the landscape and buildings, the history, details on sorcerers and magic.. Give me some complexity! (And possibly a map before the story starts, how I love those!) I would be a much happier reader if there were 50 pages more on worldbuilding and 30 less on Alexa’s love problems.
There was another thing that got my eyes rolling toward the end that I now think is an upcoming major cliche in YA books: It’s when a boy loves a girl and at the end they could finally be together, but the girl doesn’t think she’s worthy of him, so she comes up with a “I don’t really love you” story. I hate this crap! There wasn’t one good reason why she wouldn’t be “worthy” of him and after all, why can’t she leave this decision to him?! It takes stupidity of a character to a whole new level.
From everything I wrote so far, you’d think I didn’t like Defy, but I must say that despite these flaws I really enjoyed it! I can’t remember when I last read a book that would got me so engrossed in the story. It was really hard to stop reading it and go to sleep or eat something. Apart from a few Alexa’s internal monologues about love and oh-all-the-boys, it never got boring. There were some twists I didn’t see coming and some pretty nice ass-kicking! Although Rylan was my favorite of the two, I’ve grown to like Damian too, in the end. I didn’t even dislike Alexa that much as I’d have thought, she proved to be a strong female character quite a few times. If I was a few years younger and I wasn’t such a picky reader, Defy could easily become one of my favorites.
I was deciding between 3- and 4-star rating, but even though there were some major flaws, my feelings told me to go with 4 stars. I loved the ending and my eyes even got a bit wet at one particular scene. I really liked how the story ended nicely, without a cliffhanger, and as far as I’m concerned it could easily be read as a standalone. That leaves me patiently waiting for the next book in Defy series!
*I received this book in exchange for and honest review. Thank you Scholastic Press and NetGalley!*