Monday, November 9, 2015

Defy by Sara B. Larson

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?

Rating: 2/5 stars

Do you guys think it’s weird to start reading a book with no idea of what it is about?

Lately, whether it is with books, shows or movies I’ve found that reading the summary can kill the entire experience for me. Too much is revealed sometimes, things that should be a surprise we know them from the start thanks to that helping promotion tool.

Not to say it always work for me though. Sometimes I’ll pick up a book, start reading and be completely confused and lost on what the story is about.

This was one of those times when not reading the summary worked against me because, had I read the blurb of Defy before I picked it up, I might never have read it: The entire premise is a love triangle.

After a war with the neighbour Kingdom *insert generic fantasy name*, Alexa’s parents are killed and in order to keep his sister safe, her twin brother cuts off her hair and they both pass off as twin brothers, entering the King’s guard and trained to become the best warriors in the prince’s personal guard.

But as the war comes to a culming point, Alexa, her best friend Rylan and the prince are kidnapped by the enemy. As the two men discover Alexa’s secret they will both fight over her heart.

Yeah, you heard me. They were kidnapped by the enemy and their top priority is fighting over a girl. Way to go guys, veery smart.

To be fair, had it not been for the heavy romantic drama (and awful rape plot), Defy could have been great. The plot was fast and entertaining and I could see myself enjoying this book under other circumstances. I’m sure people who aren’t bothered by a heavy dose of romance will like Defy very much.

Unfortunately, I like more action and mystery in my Fantasy reads and in that aspect the book disappointed, as it spent every moment developing the love triangle. As a result, and despite having the premise of a girl taking matters into her own hands to save herself and follow her dreams, the narrative was quite sexist.

Alexa pretends to be a boy so she’ll be saved from the “breeding house” which is basically a place where little girls and teens are sent to be raped by soldiers and breed more soldiers for the war against the enemy Kingdom.

It’s no secret that I despise rape as a plot devise, and the fact that massive rape is used to have a flimsy excuse for the plot to begin (and to show us how good Alexa is by feeling sorry for those girls)  is not only disgusting but also dumb. Alexa says that the war has taken way longer than everybody expected; the Queen was murdered by the enemy which led to a heartbroken King to start a war against them. Although noble at first, the conflict was stretched for far too long and people started getting tired and resentful toward the monarchy.

Which begs the question, why create breeding houses when those soldiers would take over fifteen years to be ready? Ten if they were going with child soldiers.

Why if everybody thought the war wouldn’t last long, did they allow for their little girls to be taken away and raped repeatedly to breed new soldiers? This is never addressed. People are all “Ugh, the breeding house is so distasteful.” But nobody is horrified, no parent, family or I don’t know, rebel group tries to free these little girls from such torture.
Fuck that.

You can’t be so disrespectful towards something so horrible.

But the thing doesn’t end there. Despite Alexa being the main character and a “determined” woman, she’s completely useless to the narrative. She is in charge of taking care of the Prince (she is the best swordsman in the guard at the tender age of sixteen!!!!!!!) but he is the one who has to save her all the time.

Despite her keeping the secret that she is a girl, WITH NO MENTION OF HOW SHE DOES IT WHEN SHE’S ON HER PERIOD I might add, every single person in the effing kingdom knows the truth, because she just sucks at it. Really, Alexa had to keep reminding herself that she was pretending to be a boy.

"Damian lifted his hand, holding it in the air between us. I hesitated to put my hand in his, strangely nervous to touch him when my emotions were in such an upheaval. But when he silently lifted an eyebrow at me in question, I quickly reached up to shake it firmly. A wave of warmth flowed up my arm and into my belly from the feel of his strong hand clasped around mine. I cleared my throat and tightened my grip. Act like a boy, act like a boy."

I found it offensive how, when Alexa notices that the prince is flirting with her as she’s passing off as a boy, she never thinks “Hum, maybe the prince is into dudes?” nope, her first thought is “HE MUST KNOW I’M A GIRL!!!!” Why couldn’t he be gay? Seriously, it never crosses her mind when it’s the first thing anybody would think.

There is “fantasy” and “magic” in this story but I’ll use the term loosely considering how undeveloped those aspects were. We are never shown how magic works or why some people can wild it and others can’t. Magic is the number one treat to their Kingdom and nobody bothers to investigate how that thing works? I don’t buy it.

The end was a little anti-climatic, as it was filled with too much romance-drama nonsense.

I really think that Defy will be a great choice for people who like romance, but if you’re looking for something more fantasy oriented then you’ll probably won’t enjoy this one.

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