ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

January 17, 2014 Review 36 ★★★½

ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson
Defy by Sara B. Larson
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 336
Release Date: January 7th 2014
Series: Defy #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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 received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

bec (2)

Low expectations can be a great thing to have on hand when going into a book. It sounds terrible, but it’s true. With DEFY I’d seen many 2 star or lower reviews, and I thought I wasn’t going to like it. I thought I was going to hate it. Instead I was pleasantly surprised. Well, by most things. There were still a couple of elements that got on my nerves, but aside from that DEFY isn’t too terrible.

DEFY is set in a jungle, a location that was new to me and one I’m glad I experienced. I wish there were more scenes set out there, and with the animals and dangers that inhabit it, rather than just focusing on the terrible people. Of which there were plenty, let me tell you. The king is despicable. And though we don’t get to see him in person, we got to see his laws and policies. I feel I should warn some of you of the horror of the breeding house. It’s a background setting, a small scene, but an example of the horror of the king and the current world.

The plot of this wasn’t too shabby either. Until the romance was introduced but I’ll get to that in a second. There were some scenes and revelations that surprised me, and others that were way too predictable. Still it was entertaining. If anything there should have been more action, more political intrigue, more into Alex’s role as the Prince’s guard and her fighting ability, but all that was overshadowed by the romance.

DEFY has a love triangle in it. And it’s an average love triangle. Nothing about it is really special. I don’t particularly care about either of the boys as romantic interests and the frequency with which she thinks of them and is torn between doing what is “right” and what her heart thinks. The actual romance scenes were pretty well written, and there was some great chemistry at times, but there were also moments where I was rolling my eyes or gagging because it was so sappy. It also didn’t help that once the boys find out Alex is actually Alexa they all drop the act of pretending/thinking she’s a boy after an entire year or so and suddenly start treating her like a girl. Alexa herself suddenly becomes ridiculously feminine and she’s been acting for three years. I found it rather annoying and after that the characters became really adept at getting on my nerves.

Aside from annoying romance, DEFY was actually a surprising read. The plot isn’t too shabby and has magic and wars and battles. All that fun stuff. Set in a beautiful, unique world that could have been explored more, it was an enjoyable read. The only real issue I had with it was a love triangle I just couldn’t bring myself to care about (it would have been so much better if all those scenes were replaced with action. So much better). I’m hoping for a bit more action and world exploration in the sequel.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.4

36 Responses to “ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson”

  1. Kezia D

    Fantastic review, Bec!! < The love triangle was predictable for me too, it was obvious which one she would fall for. The romance wouldn't have been that crappy for me if both of the love interests are equally developed, not one… I might give the sequel a chance though, cause I see potential in this series and hopefully the next book will be better.
    Kezia D recently posted…How do you keep track of quotes you like?

    • Bec


      Yeah, it’s not the best or most conflicting triangle I’ve ever read and the relationships felt rushed. I hope we both enjoy the sequel more than we liked this one!

    • Bec

      Really? I saw a lot of negative things before I read it. It’s more romance than fantasy. The characters did have a tendency to get on my nerves :/

      No worries :)

  2. Leigh @ Little Book Star

    I’ve been seeing negative reviews on this. I really think it could have been better. The fact that it took place in a jungle is intriguing, but it’s sad how most of the book didn’t focus there. I really hate it when the romance is bad. I wish the book focused more on what it’s really about instead of having the romance there because that’s not the main topic of the book.

    • Bec

      Could have been SO much better. I’m hoping there’s a change in focus in book two, because this wasn’t a book I wanted to focus on romance ><

  3. Michelle {Book Hangovers}

    I’ve had this ARC in my kindle waiting to be read and reviewed for quite some time now :(
    Because of all the negative reviews on this I haven’t been excited to read it. Which is sad b/c when I first saw it I was like “this is my kind of book”! Now that I’ve seen your review I think I’ll finally give it a go!
    Thanks for your thoughts
    xoxox Michelle

    • Bec

      I was hesitant for the same reason. If it’s your type of book/genre though I suspect your feelings will be similar to mine.

      I hope you like it!

  4. Brooke

    I wasn’t thrilled with this. I don’t think it’s as high fantasy as it’s made out to be. I wasn’t a fan of the romance. I felt like it needed to be fleshed out more, as did the characters. They were rather flat to me. And after all those years of her acting as a boy suddenly she acts like a girl? It just didn’t make sense to me. Plus, I didn’t jive well with the world building. I felt like this needed more to it. I gave it a 3. Not bad for a debut, but definitely could have used a bit more work IMO.

    • Bec

      No, there’s definitely more a romance focus than there would be in other high fantasy. More time was definitely needed for developing characters and their relationships.

      I’m hoping the writing improves in the sequel.

  5. Lauren

    I’m so glad to hear going into this with low expectations helped you to enjoy it more, because mine are pretty low, but this does sound like exactly the sort of story I would love. I think the breeding house is going to horrify me for sure, but the rest of it sounds fun (except for the sappy bits). Wonderful balanced, honest review!
    Lauren recently posted…Book Review: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

    • Bec

      I go into every novel with low expectations. It makes a lot of things more enjoyable and less disappointing :)

      The breeding house and other aspects were just to demonstrate the cruelty of the current king, I believe. But those scenes were heartbreaking to read. Quite well done.

      Thanks :D I hope you enjoy it when you read it.

  6. Pam@YA Escape from Reality

    I actually really enjoyed this one too, except for the romance. The love triangle was just so unnecessary and you’re so right, some parts were extremely sappy. And Alexa just got so annoyingly girly when she had been so tough for so long. But other than that, I really liked it and I thought the ending was quite surprising. Great review!

    • Bec

      This would have been a much better book without a love triangle, honest. If time had been spent building a really nice, single romance I would love it I think.

      It was a pretty surprising and badass ending.

      Thanks :)

    • Bec

      I LOVE ALL THREE! And own them all. With the Aus covers but I see what you mean by similar.

      It was pretty decent if you can overlook the romance. I hope you like it!


  7. Angel (Spare Reads)

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! I liked this book too :) but yeah, the love triangle is pretty typical. I wished there were more reactions after Marcel’s death. Alexa and him were so close, but the impact wasn’t as great as I had imagined. I will probably pick up the second book as well since Larson mentioned that there will be more world building in it to fully explore the three kingdoms. Hopefully we will both enjoy that one too! Nice review :)
    Angel (Spare Reads) recently posted…Review: Mistress of the Wind

    • Bec

      Me too, me too. She got over it quite quickly.

      I’m thinking I’ll pick it up too, just to see how it goes.

  8. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Yes, yes, YES! These are my exact thoughts! I loved the jungle and the culture…it was an awesome world! Buuut, Alex just really bugged me. She. was. freaking. awesome. And then suddenly everyone finds out she’s a girl and….okay, goodbye being awesome. I really hated it how the boys had to suddenly protect her all the time. Wasn’t she the best fighter ever?! Hmph. I felt it was kind of degrading to females, actually. Just to say that you can’t have a guy AND be tough, and that kind of message (I think) sucks. But it was still a good book. :) Awesome review! You captured my opinion of it perfectly too!
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…What Does the Cover Say? Linkup!

    • Bec

      Yes! The protecting! That was stupid. She’d probably protect herself better than they could protect her.


  9. Tanja

    You’re totally right about this. I too have seen so many low ratings for this one so I have no expectations for it whatsoever so I think I’d enjoy this one more than others. Too bad I don’t plan to read it. Anyhow I’m glad you enjoyed it :) Great review.
    Tanja recently posted…Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  10. Kirsty-Marie

    I did have high expectations with this one, but then I saw the reviews coming in… I don’t know if I’ll read it yet though, I mean, I don’t mind love triangles as long as they’re done well, which it sounds like it hasn’t. And sappy romance? Oh, joy. I think the thing that would annoy me more though, is like you said, she becomes overly feminine, which if she’s been pretending to be a boy, surely the walk, the hold of yourself and mannerism’s would be hard to shake off?
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: Cruel Beauty

    • Bec

      Yeah, sounds like it might annoy you. Those were the parts that pissed me off most. She dropped the entire act too quickly after 3 years of so carefully keeping the facade.

  11. ShootingStarsMag

    Well, I don’t like to hear about the bad romance plot….I just think some YA books don’t need a romance, or at least not the typical romances we keep reading about. Besides that, it’s great you actually enjoyed this one. Sometimes it IS better to go in with low expectations and see what you personally get out of it.
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…The Game is On! Sherlock Holmes Mini Gift Guide

    • Bec

      Definitely. I mean, I like a good romantic side plot in things like this, but it has to be a SIDE PLOT. There’s more important things going on.

      I learnt to go in with low expectations from a few bad experiences. It works pretty well for me :)

  12. Sydney

    I’m like you — I’ve heard quite a few bad things about this book, but there’s the occasional decent/good review that makes me think it’ll be worth picking up. The cover reminds me so much of Graceling that for a while I thought it was a sequel. Apparently, it is not, ha. Great review. :) I might give this book a shot, predictable parts and all!
    Sydney recently posted…Review: Full Steam Ahead by Valerie Chase

    • Bec

      It may look like Graceling, but what’s on the inside if incredibly different :/ I hope you enjoy it more than most people seemed to!

  13. Nova @ Out of Time

    I noticed that a lot of people didn’t like it either. I can see why people didn’t, but I did. I gave it 4 stars, I think. For me, I pretty much loved it except for the fricking love triangle. I was pretty pissed off at that because it was so unnecessary and like it was said in every single review, hehe.

    Great review!
    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted…Novel Melodies: Divergent – Veronica Roth

    • Bec

      Yeah, I was the same. I just got annoyed at the characters themseles too. It is really unnecessary and would be so much better if just one relationship was focused on.


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