I really thought reading a non-romance Western before diving into a book as universally panned in my feed as Defy, I'd be able to offer a unique perspective. Because I've been sufficiently warned off from this book but I genuinely thought taking expectations out of the equation, bracing yourself for the worst… maybe it won't be so bad.
There's a war waging between Blevon and Antion and Alexa Hollen just lost her parents to an sorcerer. Together with her twin brother Marcel, she is forced to pretend that she's a boy in order to avoid getting sent to the king's "breeding houses" where orphan girls get raped to breed soldiers for the war. Alex/Alexa and Marcel are now part of the Prince's guards as they try to protect his arrogant and pompous ass from assassination and kidnapping.
I just shook my head, using the rag to wipe away the sweat dripping down my hairline. Kai and his women. I liked him well enough, but I was glad he didn't know I was a girl. He was attractive, I suppose taller, with his light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and his green eyes always crinkled at the corners from a constant smile.
But if I had to pick the most handsome man on the guard, I definitely preferred Rylan's warm brown eyes. His more subdued, quiet humor. The surprising gentleness he had with animals.
Yup, she's got ALL THAT in her plate and her thoughts are oriented towards picking which among her colleagues is the most handsome.
And that was 25% in.
It's a wonder how she got to walk with all that lady boner she's been sporting all throughout the book. I kinda wish she went and dry humped every tree she came across just to keep these incessant thoughts at bay. Because something has to shut her up long enough to explain what's all that breeding house bizzness (why is it exactly part of the story?) and maybe a better mourning for the eventual demise of her brother.
If I had to make a comparison Defy is the poorman's third cousin neighbor of the co-worker of your uncle's gardener of Throne of Glass. This book, I feel is a gross misinterpretation of what current YA fantasy trends is all about. Which should come across as comical in its failed attempt but has left me mildly
offended concerned instead. Because someone out there thinks this is what I, as a YA fantasy reader, would enjoy.
It's an oversimplification of the formula: Strong heroine with proto-feminist advocacies? Alex/Alexa is the best fighter in the exclusively male Prince's Guards. She can kick everyone's ass but she doesn't think she's pretty. She's a tangle of hormones because, you know, seventeen. Obviously.
A love triangle between the heroine, authority figure and one of her peers? Alex/Alexa is caught between the
abs pecs abs and pecs of Prince Damian, her misunderstood boss who only acts like a brat but is actually philosophical and shiz and Rylan, the pretty guard who is the best among the guards but not as good as Alex/Alexa because again, feminism, yay!
"Everything is going to be okay, Alexa. I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise. Not even the king."
I stared up at him, my heart in my throat. What was wrong with me? A week ago, I wouldn't even let myself admit that I found any man attractive. And now my heart couldn't seem to remember how to beat normally whenever Rylan or Damian came near me - or when either of them touched me.
Sexual tension and angst? Put them all three in a tent/dungeon with Alex/Alexa making out with one guy, add a bit of kissing with heated passion, tingling lips and molten desire flowing in x's veins...
while other guy pretends to sleep, crying silent tears of suffering. (To be honest, I'd probably cry too.)
An elaborate fantasy plot where the heroine plays a central role? There's some off-hand pew-pew and magicalitism of wizards and sorcerers and spells and people dying shockingly so you could shelf this appropriately. This ofcourse has to lead to the uncovering of details of Alex/Alexa's past that will be pivotal to the climactic fight scene in the end.
Because that's what works now, right? Fuck character depth and development. Fuck logic. Fuck it all, there's a little boy carried by Damian on his shoulders while they travel doesn't that make you swoon? Doesn't that melt your cold cynical heart? Wait, what? What did you say? What's the breeding houses for? You misunderstand, this is the first book in the series, this is called leaving room for the rest of the books to grow into a bigger complexity. Who cares about that anyway when there's love, LOVE, LOVE?
It was comical enough that the book spent its clunky middle with Alex/Alexa sorting out her emotions and feels for Damian and Rylan WHILE they were held as hostages by a "dangerous" sorcerer. But as if awakened from masturbatory thoughts, someone remembers "oh hey, this is fantasy, we should probably start putting that in too" right in the 70%-ish mark. Such that the clunky delivery got way even more clunkier as chunks of the plot get explained, rationalized and revealed in a lazy Q&A manner between characters.
Is this book even trying?
Look I'm not in the habit of reading books that have been well-derided by others for the sheer fun of it. I'm afraid I'm all out of snark and creativity and I have enough enough wrinkles as it is. But I really thought there was some redeeming aspect, some silver lining, the smallest reason to give it a chance and not be so universally burned.
Yeah we're just going to leave this right back there.
ARC provided by Scholastic Press thru Netgalley in exchanger an honest review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.