Book 1
Defy Trilogy

November 24, 2014

Scholastic Paperbacks




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?


"Romance. Mystery. Twists."  By L. R. W. Lee 2 years ago

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I will say up front I’m a sucker for a messy love story set against a fantasy world. I enjoy love sprouting in a barren wasteland, or though the cracks in the sidewalk where it’s impossible for it to thrive, but it does–it persists and refuses to give up. You kinda have to be this way to fully enjoy this book because a love triangle is a central theme throughout. If you despise this type of conflict, this book is probably not for you.

The book starts with an intriguing premise–there are breeding houses established by the maniacal king to produce warriors to support his long-term and unending war efforts. They are painted in sufficient depth as to create revulsion and disgust and set up a central part of the conflict, namely that Alexa Holden masquerades as a boy (aided by her twin brother) to avoid said houses and their abuse.

Of course Alexa can’t just be an ordinary “boy”…that would never do in a fantasy story. She discovers she has traces of a gift for sword-fighting passed down from her father who we find out was a sorcerer, in a land where sorcerery is frowned upon and made to be a crime punishable by death.

I liked the setting Larson situated the book in, a jungle, which added creepy crawlies and jaguars that aren’t in most YA fantasy. It was a nice change.

A few issues I had with the plot: We never understand why King Hector, the maniacal monarch, is the way he is. We also don’t understand why he is at war. He trumped up a bogus reason to get the people to fight against a neighboring kingdom, but we never understand why. We also don’t come to understand why certain people are sorcerers. What’s the background narrative about how sorcerers came to be in the land. We also never understand how so many folks knew Alexa was a girl masquerading as a boy. Perhaps that is yet to come in book two, but it’s certainly a question.

One other thing, Larson needs to expand her repetoire of ways to describe a character’s “inscrutible” look. She mixed in a few but way too many “inscrutible”s for my liking.

Overall, I enjoyed the read and give it 4 stars. I’m curious to see what book 2 has in store.

If you enjoyed this review, check out other YA Fantasy reviews at my blog at

"Enjoyable Fantasy"  By Steph 1 year ago

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Defy by Sara B. Larson was one of those books that I saw ALL over the blogosphere around the holiday season, and I was enthralled by the premise of the story – a girl pretending to be a boy, personal guard to the prince, sorcerers, magic, a love triangle. This fantasy had everything I love in a story, or at least it seemed that way.

When I started reading Defy I was in a reading slump and it made me overly moody while trying to read (come on, we have all been there!). As the book began I was interested in Alex/a’s story, she was strong and but also hardheaded and I felt for her - having to hide, keep secrets… that cannot be easy. Into the first few chapters I started to lose interest in her though. It seemed the same issues over and over – ‘I’m a girl, no one can know’ and that kept being the main issue. So I put down the book for a bit.

I picked this up again recently and had a marathon read, I was getting through this book no matter what; and what I found was that it got really good! Alex/a starts to act more like her real self, people start to find out whom she is, and the romance begins (insert giddy laughter here). I could not put it down (until I HAD to go to bed that is).

Rylan and Damien are both very different in their feelings for Alex/a. Rylan is the sure and steady, devoted type while Damien is a bit unpredictable but swoon-worthy – also a prince. The plot only progressed with the love triangle and so much more in the way of plot-twists and turns. I felt like some of them were very predictable while others were more confusing than anything. Overall I really enjoyed the book once I got into it, but the girl as a boy issues in the beginning were a little over the top (I thought). The biggest issue that I had with the book was that the fantasy was eaten alive by the romantic elements and the sorcerers and magic were few and far between - hoping for more of this plot development as the series progresses.

Note: Not intended for younger readers - there are many mentions of the rape of young women.