Thursday, December 26, 2013

ARC Review~ Defy (Defy #1): Sara B. Larson

ARC Review of Defy by Sara B. Larson
Rating: 8.25 4stars
Series: Defy #1
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Expected Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Recommended For: fans of Graceling and Legend
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Page Count: appx. 336 (according to Goodreads)
Format: E-ARC

Goodreads Synopsis: 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 recieved an ARC copy from Netgalley, but this does not in any way affect my honest review of my own individual opinion*

My Background: I first learned about this book from Fiction_TheNewReality when she did an ARC review. This was also my first ever e-ARC from Netgalley that I got because of how interesting the plot sounded. Everything I knew about this book was from the Fiction_TheNewReality's review and the Goodreads synopsis, so I dove into the book and read.

Plot 9/10: I personally loved the plot of the book very much because of the total kick-ass female character Alex(a) Hollens. 

I did have some problems with the book. It seemed like it took about 5 different plot lines, and elements that were thrown into a Nutri-Bullet and blended together. There were all the Graceling elements with the female character having something to hide, and being the best fighter, along with all of the magic. There were elements from Legend by Marie Lu in that *spoiler alert for the first 35%* her brother "Marcel" died (sounds a lot like Metias doesn't it?), then snooty Prince Damain seemed to be exactly like Anden. Ofcourse there were all the themes from Mulan when it came to a girl being dressed up as a man, which is not a critism, but merely a point.

Characters 9/10: So my feelings about the characters are that I love the characters as characters, but I didn't always like the way they were portrayed and my connection with them. I was also a little confused with the number of guards for Prince Damian because of all the random names that didn't really have faces or characteristics to go with them. Anyway the three main characteres were Alex(a) Hollens, Prince Damian, and Rylan. Alex(a) Hollens is the main character of the book that has been pretending to be a man in Prince Damian's guard for the past three years. Prince Damian is the spoiled, lazy brat of a prince that seems to be oblivious to the world around him. Rylan is Alex(a)'s best friend (aside from her brother) and part of the Prince's personal guard.

My favorite character surprise surprise is Alex(a) because strong female leads are just so irresistable. 

What I felt throughout the entire book was disconnected from the characters. Their pain, struggle, and sacrifice wasn't portrayed well enough in this story. I also felt that even though Alex(a) was the main character, I didn't feel like the focus was on her as much, which is surprising since the book is written in first-person. 

As @Crystalbookland said on twitter: I feel more interested in Damain & what's going on with him than Alex(a) right now

Romance 5/10: I honestly think this book would have been better without the love triangle, or maybe with just one guy instead of the two. I remember reading Doughnut&Co's Review and she expressed my feelings perfectly.
"What I, however, absolutely detested about this book is that it felt the need to have a love triangle. It didnt need a love triangle."
Don't people remember in the early 2000s when it was cool for a girl to only have one person she loved? Instead of two or more to make things more complicated. There was also the oh-so-cliche outcome to the love triangle. I personally have problems shipping people because I want them to have three-way relationships because I can't choose who I like better. One of Alex(a)'s two suitors was surprising to me, and I didn't know why I hadn't figured it out before. I also think that it was a little too sudden. From about 48%-52% of the book they've proclaimed their undying love for her, and she's kissed both of the. She also has been working with/alongside the two men for more than three years, and all of a sudden she's just noticing their swoony chest muscles, and the color of their eyes? 

Cover 5/10: I honestly didn't really like the cover because it reminded me way too much of Graceling's by Kristin Cashore. The swords in the middle of the page looked to similar. This is personal preference, but I did not like the color scheme of Defy. The ombre green as a background with the title in bright red. I did however like the hilt of the sword (it could be a dagger, I have no idea what the designer was going for) with the rose on it. To me, it was sort of like an inside joke with the reader that she was a girl. The small touch of a female characteristic in a book that's characters are 95% male.

Title 4/10: If Sara B. Larson read this review, she would probably kill me because of how much I didn't like the outward appearance of her book. I just didn't understand why it was called "Defy". That kind of title would work better for the last book in a cliche dystopian trilogy where the people rebel against the totalitarianistic (is that a word?) government. I sort of understand where she was coming from (trying not to spoil the book) because of the defiance displayed by Damian, and the fact that Alex(a) was defying the usual groove of society by being a soldier in the midst of a society where they don't let girls be warriors, but besides that I don't understand it.
Feels 5/10: I really didn't feel any feels for this book unless they pertained to the romance. Sure there were occurrences that surprised me, but nothing that out of the water. I was in fact torn between the two guys, and the moments between them were what made me get the feels. The physical appearances of both of them were so good, and although different, both of their characteristics were very valiant, and well-meant. 

Writing Style 8/10:  What I enjoyed about Larson's writing was Alex(a)'s voice. She really reminded me of June Iparis from Legend, in that her sense of duty, honor, and what's right and wrong is really strong which is excently portrayed in her thoughts and opinions.

Pacing 8/10: My one complaint is about the chapters. It felt a little James Dashner-like because the chapters were short bursts of action/thrill/suspense, then they stopped. Another concern of mine is that the last sentence of a chapter didn't connect with the first sentence of the next. Not in the sense that they weren't about the same subject, but that that there were mini plot gaps where one moment the characters are doing this, and the next they're doing a completely different thing. There were also formatting issues on my kindle version. Besides those chapter issues, the book was really well paced. There was enough action at the right times, and all the events were in order and spanned the right amount of time. 

Ending 9.5/10: The ending was one of the best I have read in a long time because of the way it left you completely satisfied, and full of closure. I was a bit sad at how the romance ended, but I won't say anymore about that. 
Quotes 4/10: I am a bit dissapointed at the lack of un-quoteworthy quotes in this book. These are the two quotes I put for my reading log since I couldn't think of anything else.
"All of it, all of my love and pain and anger surged up and filled me with fury-with purpose-with power. I felt it building in my chest, and I attacked." 79%. Alex(a)'s narration.
"True beauty is what lies inside of us, not what the world sees. A beautiful shell that houses a vile soul becomes sullied over time. But an outer shell, imperfect as it may be, that houses a beautiful soul shines with that beauty, radiating it for all who have eyes to see." 96%. Lisbet. this is actually a cliche idea in most inspirational book, but the way Larson states it is what attracted me to the quote. A vile soul being sullied has a nice ring to it. 
Continuation: 90% Yes, I will read the sequel although I do think this would have been a good standalone novel. Their story could be finished as far as I know. On Sara B. Larson's Goodreads profile, it said the next book will come out in 2015, so I will read it because I want to know what happens, but definitely think this could have been it as a story. 

Conclusion: Even though there were some elements of  "Defy" I didn't like, I would definitely 100% recommend that people should read Sara B. Larson's debut novel.

Blogger Note: When I read this review back to myself it sounded as if I gave it two stars instead of four. I sincerely enjoyed this book and thought it was awesome, and kept me at the edge-of-my-seat *cliche *. It just felt like to me that the small quirks, although small and infrequent, stood out to me especially making them bigger than one would think they would be. 


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