A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.
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?
In debut novelist's Larson's riveting fantasy, the tropical nation of Antion is at war, and 17-year-old Alexa has disguised herself as a boy in Prince Damian's royal guard to avoid the nightmarish "breeding houses" that await her as a girl. When a visiting sorcerer kidnaps the prince in hopes of ending the war, Alexa becomes collateral damage. Learning of the dangerous hypocrisy of the nation's leaders, Alexa relies on her extraordinary fighting abilities to protect both the country and the prince she is beginning to love. An additional romantic entanglement contributes little, but Alexa is nothing if not resourceful. As a fighter surviving in a brutal world in which magic plays a sinister role, she relies on her own skills, perceptions, and determination to battle her way to the book's cinematic finale. Alexa's desire to reclaim her gender identity under her own terms ("I still wished things could be different. I wished I could be a member of the guard and a girl") gives the story much of its emotional sincerity and psychological depth. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Jan.)
“A wonderful tale of adventure, romance, and embracing your true self. Alexa is a heroine readers will love to follow!” – Marie Lu, bestselling author of the LEGEND series
"DEFY by Sara Larson is an amazing, fantastic book. It has everything you'd want: intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended." – James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNERFrom the Publisher
Alex realized that to survive, she would have to disguise herself. For years, she has been masquerading as a boy on Prince Damian's elite guard. Royal conspiracies and intrigue are all part of the job, and Alex cannot relax for one second. If her true identity is uncovered, nothing can save her from punishment. Then the unthinkable happens: Alex, fellow guard Rylan, and Prince Damian are kidnapped. It becomes impossible to hide the truth, and Alex learns she is not the only one that has been keeping secrets. Set in a medieval world full of danger, magic and romance, Larson's exciting tale will appeal to fans of high fantasy. The plot is fast-paced and the story full of unexpected twists and turns. While there are deeper themes that run through the novel, they are rarely explored, which could lead some readers to consider the writing shallow. In typical series-book style, the novel ends with a cliffhanger that will leave readers craving for more. Book #1 of this trilogy. Reviewer: Natalie GurrChildren's Literature - Natalie Gurr
Alexa has posed as a boy for the last three years allowing her to serve in the royal guard where she is the best fighter in the elite group which serves and protects the crown prince. Alexa and her twin brother disguised her as Alex in order to give her a chance to escape the breeding houses where young girls are taken and forced to make more soldiers for the army. The kingdom is at war, led by a cruel, ruthless king who uses his people to further his ambitions. The ruse of Alex as a boy must be the worst secret in the kingdom, as both her closest friend, Rylan, and prince Damien have fallen madly in love with Alexa. Although she is a bit torn, there seems to be no contest for her heart. The prince has plans of his own to end the war, using a staged kidnapping as a way to shake up the status quo and power structure. The heroes of the story find themselves part of an elaborate plot to end the war. While Alexa has believed her understanding of reality to be truth, she is repeatedly shocked when secrets are revealed showing her that the life and mind of the prince and the politics of the palace are more complicated than she imagined. Her competence as a fighter and quick thinking are valued by those around her, regardless of her gender. This action-packed fantasy holds much page-turning appeal. Reviewer: Erin Wyatt; Ages 12 to 18.VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Erin Wyatt
Disguises, love triangles and magical battles are classic tropes in fantasy for teens, but this debut fails to lift them beyond the tiresome. Alex, the youngest and deadliest warrior in Prince Damian's guard, has a secret: "He" is actually Alexa, hiding her sex to avoid the horrific "breeding houses" that supply fodder for Antion's endless war. Damian also has a secret: He isn't really a selfish brat, and he enlists Alexa in a dangerous game of intrigue, deception and betrayal. While she bemoans that pretending to be a boy has become second nature, Alexa's behavior is stereotypically--unpleasantly--"girly": throwing tantrums, crying, pouting, cowering, obsessing over her romantic prospects and (despite her vaunted fighting prowess) constantly needing rescue by men, all of whom see through her masquerade. The secondary characters are mere plot puppets; the villains are ludicrously evil-for-evil's-sake, and the heroes exist only to be desperately in love with Alexa, if never articulating any reason for their devotion. The worldbuilding is equally sketchy; while the dank fecundity of tropical Antion is sensuously conveyed, the narrative timeline is confusing, the magical system arbitrary and the political structure nonsensical. Several subplots go nowhere. It takes more than good guys and bad guys to create an epic adventure; more than heated smooches to portray a resonant romance; and more than acting badass with a sword to be a strong female protagonist. (Fantasy. 12-18)
02/01/2014School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In Alexa's world, young men are soldiers and young women are the means to breed new ones. There is no alternative. So when Alexa's parents are killed and their home destroyed by a sorcerer, Alexa cuts her hair and enrolls in the army to save herself from the breeding house. Trained by their father and polished by the army, "Alex" and her twin, Marcel, earn places in the prince's guard as the best swordsmen in the kingdom. But the palace is full of secrets and as the story continues to build in suspense, it's clear that Prince Damian has more than most. Alex is a bold heroine whose priorities are protecting her prince and her people, but the lines between good and evil blur as she gleans more truth about the royal family she serves. Her destiny is revealed when her own power comes to fruition, a power that could end the greatest corruption of all. Larson's debut is full of passion and adventure, urging readers to cheer and weep simultaneously at Alexa's astounding courage. Those interested in strong female characters, such as Katniss from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, will find new affinity in Defy.—Jamie-Lee Schombs, Loyola School, New York City