Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Challenge: Defy

 Author: Sara B. Larson 
Release Date:  January 7th, 2014 
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Pages: 336
*1st book in a series*


Summary (Goodreads):
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?


*~Thank you so much to Scholastic for sending me this copy via Netgalley!~*

 So before I start this review I just wanted to say:

This is my first arc!!!!:D
OMG!!!!! THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!!
okay I'm done:)

Maybe one more:D

OK I'm really done now:)
Time to get serious:


So going into this book I was a little wary.  Why? Well, the first thing I see in the plot blurb is thrilling love triangle

My opinion on love triangles changes depending on a number of factors (my mood, how well it’s written, etc.)  By my low rating, you can guess how well that was written.  But it wasn’t just the love triangle (which will be discussed more later) that contributed to my rating.  There was also the fact that Alexa was a Mary Sue and a “great” conversationalist. And cardboard characters? EVERYWHERE.  However, despite everything, this book did have a few redeeming qualities, which I'll address at the end.

So let’s start with the love triangle aspect.

The love triangle just consumed the book.  Literally.

Pretty much like that

The first half of the book was actually okay.  I was enjoying the plot, despite the Mary Sue girlie over there.  The world building was okay too: jungles, a few kingdoms here and there, mention of sorcerers.  It wasn’t much, but I’ve seen worse; besides I’m assuming the world is going to be explained more in the second novel.  (Am I going to stick around for that sequel? Eh.  That’s up in the air right now.) Then we hit the half way mark, BAM!  Suddenly revelations fly out from all sides. Bam! Character A: I knew Alexa was a girl! Bam! Character B: I knew too! Bam! Character B: I’ve been hiding someone! Bam!

 You get the idea.

After everyone “finds” out Alexa is a girl, that’s when the real love triangle begins- but really, it’s no contest.  It was extremely obvious, even before everyone confessed they knew already found out actually, who she liked in the beginning and who she was going to stick with.   So I guess this book really doesn’t have a love triangle? Usually those words would be music to my ears, but then we’re left with the witty dialogue:
“I love you! But I don’t want to hurt Rylan!” *insert anguish here*
Repeat. And repeat.  One more time.  Repeat again.

In the second half of the book, pretty much everything revolves around that, and since she was the book (first person narration), her thoughts were consumed by her supposed anguish between the two guys- which, frankly, was just a waste of time, when we all know who she was going to go with.  The whole love triangle mess was just pointless, and it took away from the real meat of the story. 

*knock knock* 
Mary Sue? Meet Alexa.  I’m pretty sure you two are very well acquainted- after all, Alexa is you. 
Has rare powers: check
She is the ONE: check
Everyone is in love with her: check
Hardcore and kicks butt: check
Beats the captain of the guard who is twice her size and has never been beaten by ANYONE (*rolls eyes* even if she does have a magical power, that’s pushing it): check

See, I’m okay with Mary Sues at times- if they have some redeeming quality or have actually have a great/unique personality (rarely, but it’s happened before) or something like that.  But Alexa?  She’s exactly like the tons of generic YA heroines out there.  Replace her name with any other hardcore, "special" YA heroine, and the story would be able to function just as well.  She had no personality.   I thought she did at first; when she lost her brother, she had this internal struggle between wanting to keep up a stoic facade, but also to keep up the guise of being a boy.  It seemed like one of those moments where it was going to define her- make or break her.  But no.  She was blander than unsalted soup- which leads perfectly into my next point: cardboard characters.

 NO ONE (save Prince Damian) was developed character-wise.   I felt no connection to any of the characters because of their lack of development and for their lack of personality.  Rylan could be synonymous with wall.  Not even a brick wall. Just wall. He’s not worthy of any adjectives or articles.  Nothing about his past is explained; nothing about him is explained.  And the few instances I do get some personality it's just disguised anguish and regret- which isn’t even personality at all.

Alexa=unsalted soup.  

The rest of her guards= unsalted soup. 

Prince Damian? I had mixed feelings for this guy, but I can assure you none of those feelings included swooning.  He was actually the most complicated (I use this word very lightly) character in the novel.  He also showed a wide range of emotions, which was definitely something to celebrate. Damian was frustratingly picky with giving out information, but he had actual motives and reasons as to why he did the things he did. And actually, this book did have a decent plot underlying all that mess with the love triangle- and Damian helped to sort of bring focus to that hidden plot, even if Alexa was so preoccupied with his abs. (um???)

But there were a few redeeming qualities about this book.  The plot for one.  The first half of the book was pretty good.  I was really getting into it.  It's too bad that the plot gets lost in the second half of the novel, and I felt like a lot of it was sacrificed for the love triangle.  Everything was rushed, and things just started happening at once at the end.  (So it was that bam! Bam! Bam! episode all over again.)  But for the first half of the book, it was alright.

  Lisbet was also a character I sort of thought was a redeeming point okay maybe not a redeeming point, but I liked the quote of hers (about inner beauty and scars being a mark of courage) at the end.  The reason she wasn’t exactly a redeeming point was because she was frustratingly quiet throughout the novel.   She wouldn’t answer any questions, and she wouldn't explain why she didn't answer any questions. To be honest, I was getting annoyed with her.

Did that quote at the end make up for her attitude?
 No. Not really.  I liked it, but not that much.  

And she was really bitter towards Alexa (understandably) throughout the book, but at the end suddenly turned friendly.  Um?? I mean Alexa saved the world and all, but the level of hostility Lisbet had shown Alexa could not have been dropped that easily.

 The last redeeming point (and this has to do with the quote too) was the underlying theme about appearances (of course- the main character was dressed as a guy); I really liked the direction the book took it. It wasn’t about a drop dead gorgeous girl who needed constant reassuring that she was beautiful.  It also wasn’t about a drop dead gorgeous girl who knew she was beautiful.  Alexa knew she was plain, but she didn’t dwell on it.  Yes, every once in a while, she wanted to look/feel like a girl and wanted to be noticed as a girl, but that’s different than constantly whining about how ugly/gorgeous the heroine is.   I can't say she didn't change her appearance (because, well, she was dressed as a guy), but she did accept how she looked like and who she was.  And yes, she was insecure about her scars, but who wouldn’t be?  The thing that stood out to me was how Alexa accepted her scars as a mark of her courage and moved on.    

Final thoughts?  It was okay at first, but the bad outweighed the good in the end. 

Thanks for reading!:)

Rating: 2 out of 5

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