I received this ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. No compensation was given or offered to influence or change this review.
First of all, it's a good thing there's a sequel. Secondly, oh my word, this book was amazing. I don't usually like to read novels where a girl is pretending to be a boy; the concept is just unappealing to me. But Miss Larson executed it perfectly.
The world of Defy is dangerous and just... *shivers* I wouldn't want to live there. But Miss Larson seamlessly created a world that perfectly balances the fantastical fantasy requirements with believability. She didn't have to dive in and describe or explain things for pages at a time. Somehow, she brought an entire world to life from the very first page. The story progressed and she showed us how things worked there through Alexa's experiences, which is how these things should be done.
Alexa herself was perfect. She has been pretending to be a boy for three years now. When she loses her twin, Marcel, her careful façade starts unraveling under the grief. Now she's suddenly required to sleep right outside Prince Damian's room and not thinking about how handsome he is has become exceedingly difficult.
There were some whispers of a love triangle that I suspect will become more prominent as the series goes on, but it was practically nonexistent in Defy. Personally, I was voting for Prince Damian the entire time. I know he was supposed to be the wimpy, lazy dude in the beginning but Alexa's observations pretty much had me hooked. I didn't believe for a second that he was truly lazy. Honestly, despite what she said, I don't think Alexa did either. She was trying to explain things away so she wouldn't become more attracted to him. His midnight visits basically did her in, even if she was pretending to be a boy.
I have mixed feelings about Rylan, Alexa's best friend (besides Marcel). He wasn't quite your typical losing male interest. He was kind but he didn't try to push things. When he saw that Damian had won, he let her know he was still there but he didn't try to weasel his way between them. I appreciated that very much.
I could totally understand Alexa's reaction when she was suddenly expected to act like a girl. Of course she's confused. Survival has dictated that she act like a boy for the past three years. Her moments were perfectly controlled, which is expected by someone whose survival has depended on that self-control, but I appreciated that consistency.
The plot was well-crafted. Everything came together beautifully. The answer to defeating the magician wasn't magic, which I found refreshing. No, what did me in at the end was Alexa herself. How could she? I just... *deep breath* I need the second book because Alexa is being stupid. Not entirely stupid but I just don't understand how she could.... He's king; they can. Okay? She loves him. *sigh* I need the second book ASAP.