An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for fair review
Oh, Defy. How I wanted to like you better. Seriously! You had a great set up and then you did not fulfill your potential.
Alexa Hollen watched her parents be murdered by a sorcerer. To protect her from the horrors of being sent to the Breeding House (which, as the name implies, is a place where girls old enough to have their cycle are raped until they get pregnant to breed new fighters for the King), her brother Marcel cuts off her hair and she pretends to be a boy and instead is able to join first the army, then the Prince’s Guard. She must protect her secret to keep herself safe, all while a plot against the Prince begins to unfold.
Sounds cool, right? Right?
Alas. This is another one of those books where romance ultimately wins out over plot. The first twenty percent was great. The last thirty percent was exciting. But that blasted fifty percent in the middle…
First off, the book makes this HUGE deal about her pretending to be a boy. Of course, as such such things are want to occur (and this is not a spoiler since it’s in the book’s description) her secret is revealed! And the two men in her life are like “…yeah. We kinda knew.”
Poof! There went all the tension the book spent the first 30-40% building up.
On the one hand, it’s good. It shows that at least one character was using their brain and noticed that she had curves and that maybe her voice wasn’t quite deep enough to be a male (a girl pretending to be a guy will never sound like a real guy) and so on. On the other hand, why go to that much trouble to hide it, if the main male characters ultimately already knew?
It’s that whole “love triangle” angle.
Here’s the thing…it’s not even a real triangle. It’s more Alexa likes the Prince and the Prince likes Alexa. Rylan likes Alexa, but Alexa makes it known fairly early on that she doesn’t quite share the same feelings for him. So there’s no tension from that angle either. Instead, a good chunk of that 50% that I didn’t care for as much is spent with Alexa moping about how she shouldn’t like the Prince because he’s the Prince. But his body is hot! Oh wait, I’m mad at him again because he’s been keeping secrets from me. So on an so forth.
I really wish this time had been spent answering questions such as: why are we fighting this war? What started this war? The King is Evil (capitalization intended; it’s almost cartoonish) why hasn’t the Prince tried to do something? What the hell is the Guard doing all day if the Prince has developed these skills without anyone knowing?
We finally start getting answers at the 70% percent mark. And the answers are actually rather intriguing and I can’t help but feel that a more ambitious author could have done some really neat with it. Instead, the author plays it safe and the story plays out more or less like you can guess. There are some twists in there, but they aren’t jaw-dropping or anything.
I’d talk about Alexa, but there isn’t much to talk about. She starts out awesome and then devolves into longing looks and some self-pity before she recovers some of her spine towards the end. I do think she comes off as a bit selfish, because yes, how dare the Prince – who mind you is the Prince – not tell you everything. Who is she that has that right? I get the notion of the guard needing to know what their charge is up to, but she wanted to know every last detail and I don’t think earned that yet.
Ultimately, this is one of those books that had a ton of potential but just didn’t fulfill it, which is so disappointing. Still, if you’re better prepared for what you’re getting into, it is a fairly light and easy read. It’d be enough to tide you while waiting for other books to come in.
Verdict: Borrow it.