By Sarah B. Larson
ONE OF THE THINGS DEFY WAS MISSING was the tension. I liked the classic set-up for the book: girl disguised as boy serves as the prince’s trusted bodyguard. However, there was a list of things that didn’t work for me: flat, predictable romance, no investment in the main characters, the non-existent personalities of the villains, the lack of world-building, and a meandering plot.
The beginning is promising. It’s exciting. I loved that Alexa had a bond with her twin brother, and he was guarding her secret in order for her to stay in the King’s army. Their parents are dead. They are all the other has. I’m a sucker for that every time.
Except…Alexa’s twin brother is killed off early on. This was a big mistake to me. Alexa’s twin brother would have given her a platonic male relationship to focus on besides the love triangle that develops between her, the prince, and her best friend. It would have developed her more as a character. As it was, I had no investment in Alexa. She is a super-gifted fighter who is special for the sake of being special. Prince Damian is a typical bad boy prince with guarded secrets. Rylan the Best Friend apparently knew Alexa was a girl all along, another let down. Part of the excitement of having a girl masquerade as a boy is what happens when everyone else finds out!
In terms of the world-building, what glimmers we see border on the verge of absurdity. In this kingdom, women are sold off to breeding houses for the sake of…reasons. The kingdom needs more soldiers, and apparently this is the only logical way to find more.
In addition, the fact that the kingdom was set in a jungle was completely lost on me until halfway through the book. A rainforest setting with a whole biodiversity of life? Yes, I’m down. However, I never had a sense of the jungle. As far as I was concerned, the only sense of world-building I had was a quasi-European medieval one. Very specific, I know.
Due to my lack of investment in any of the characters, the tension was lost for me while Alexa and crew bumbled around the jungle and fought vaguely-defined villains. I liked the idea of the sorcerers, but again, there was a lack of distinctive personality and their motives were predictable.
I have heard that Book 2: Ignite, is much more engaging. However, if I want to hear a riveting story about a girl disguised as a boy, I’ll stick with Tamora Pierce, Alison Goodman’s Eon/Eona, and Mulan for now.
Recommended for fans of: Amanda Hocking, Kiera Cass, and Cassandra Clare
Upcoming Book Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan