In "Defy" by Sara B. Larson, the reader meets a character who is likable in every way. Alexa, the protagonist, is forced to pretend to be a boy when her parents die, leaving her and her twin brother alone. They live in a kingdom where all the boys are soldiers and all the girls are used to breed more soldiers.
Alexa, now known as Alex, has been a gifted fighter since she was a child learning how to fight alongside her brother. Now they both are in the king's army and they both protect the prince. He is a spoiled, arrogant young man -- but of course, things are not always as they appear to be.
The story is compelling, and Larson manages to maintain Alexa's character traits -- determined, brave, strong, quick -- almost without fail. She is a talented fighter -- the best in the country. And yet she is also loyal and kind. It's also interesting that Larson uses a bit of stereotype in reverse and has Alexa be the more talented twin when it comes to fighting, but her brother, Marcel, is the more intelligent one.
But how successful is Alexa at impersonating a boy? What happens when she is taken as hostage along with another soldier, Rylan, and Prince Damian? What happens when she realizes that her parents may have been hiding some secrets from her?
The book is difficult to put down. There is lots of action, well-written dialogue, and just the right amount of description. Larson doesn't make the mistake of including mind-numbing descriptions of every scene. She includes some well done description -- just enough.
For example, "Mist curled along the ground in the darkness, winding between tree trunks and bushes, stretching diaphanous fingers up the sides of the tent..."
There is a minor flaw when Larson writes that Alexa blushes when she sees the prince with no shirt. That's a bit unbelievable when she has been pretending to be a boy/man for three years -- living with soldiers almost 24 hours a day.
But that slight glitch aside, Larson is a writer to be watched.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Scholastic Press for review purposes.
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