by Sara B. Larson.
Defy is the story of Alexa Hollon, a girl with preternatural fighting skills in a male-dominated world and country at war. When her parents are killed, tween Alexa and her twin brother know it’s just a matter of time until the king’s men find them – forcing him into the army and her into a breeding house. So with some quick thinking, they disguise her as a boy and she joins the army, too. However, if you are expecting a Mulan-esque story, you are out of luck. This is it’s own creature.
Fast forward a few years, and Alexa is 2nd in command of the elite guard for the Prince. She was born for this life, but hormones start to kick in with young adulthood, making hiding who she is and her reaction to certain men around her harder and harder. Between the strike of another tragedy, gaining the friendship/attention of the Prince, and the political unrest of a country at war and tired of it’s king’s depredations, the stage is set for a well-paced fantasy YA adventure. With a good dash of romance thrown in, of course.
This was a decent read. It paced well and the overall plot was interesting enough to keep me reading. I liked that Alexa, while being a tough girl and awesome fighter, also had realistic feelings/reactions for a teen girl when it came to her romantic entanglements. She’d didn’t swing wildly out of character to flirt or wear pretty frippery, but caught between two men she was equally interested in caused some very natural inner turmoil for her. As a former teen girl myself, I very much remember the swirl of conflicting thoughts and feelings of that age, and I felt this was portrayed pretty spot-on.
I am sick and tired of the oh-so-predictable YA love triangles, though. And in this case neither of the candidates interested me terribly much, so I’m not sure I agree with Alexa’s taste. No book boyfriends from this one. As another point, the world-building could’ve used a bit more work. I don’t know if this will be expanded on in book 2 or not, but I felt like the story framework and ‘why’ of the politics wasn’t fully explained.
Overall, though, still a decent read.