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Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Sara B. Larson’s new series, Defy, has been compared to another classic YA fantasy book, and it only hurt the story instead of helped it.

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

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defy by sara b. larson book review

Title & Author: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy – High Fantasy

Release Date: January 7, 2014

Series: Defy #1

Publisher: Scholastic Press

How I Got the Book: ARC via NetGalley


“A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

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?”

The Comparison Game

I really think publishers should stop marketing books as “just like THIS REALLY POPULAR BOOK” because more often than not, it’s not an accurate comparison. And, fans just end up feeling misled and frustrated.

Such was the case with Defy. I wasn’t so much frustrated as feeling sad that I was ever told it was like Graceling.

In a broad sense, Defy is similar to Graceling. They both feature strong heroines who have more male-dominated abilities (i.e., fighting and defending). But, that’s kind of where the comparisons end.

Graceling offers a very well-built world. The detail around how “graces” work interested me right away and the political system is complex but easy to understand.

In Defy, I didn’t think the same was true. The world is definitely described well and has potential, but it absolutely takes second fiddle to the love triangle between Alex (secretly Alexa), Prince Damien and Rylan.

In fact, a lot of things take second place to this relationship. Cuz, things get KIND OF EXTREME at some points. Like, crazy tension and close quarters and super high emotions all over the place.

Plus, if you’ve read Throne of Glass, the roles everyone has are very similar.

Still A Good Read

Even though I feel like I just complained about Defy, I still enjoyed it overall. The story of a girl beating the odds and being a undercover dude among other dudes is still a great concept and executed well.

There’s that underlying drama of “omg, they have to find out eventually…right?!” plus the forbidden romance between Alexa and…anyone else.

Plus, even though the magic and world-building took a back seat to the romance, it was still interesting enough to keep me wanting to know more. What secrets is Prince Damien still keeping from Alexa? What was the odd phrase her dad told her in another language long ago??

Many questions are left unanswered…


I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it in a base sort of way – seeking the conclusion to the drama that unfolded. Defy suffered from an INSANE love triangle that both excited and annoyed but still pulled out a good overall message and story. Defy was another good but not great situation.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Anya E. J.

    This was a really helpful review for me! I saw Defy on NG and waffled on it but I’m so not up for a love triangle heavy plot line so now I know that I would probably regret it!