Defiance by C. J. Redwine is rich postapocalyptic YA fantasy perfect for fans of Graceling and Tamora Pierce.
While the other girls in the walled city-state of Baalboden learn to sew and dance, Rachel Adams learns to track and hunt. While they bend like reeds to the will of their male Protectors, she uses hers for sparring practice.
When Rachel’s father fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the city’s brutal Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector: her father’s apprentice, Logan–the boy she declared her love to and who turned her down two years before. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself.
As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
For me, the lack of world building in Defiance was the leading cause of my negative feelings. There are plenty of fantasy books that have gotten away with successfully with avoiding much world building (Poison by Bridget Zinn comes to mind), but I felt there were too many events and motivations in Defiance that didn’t make sense due to the lack of world building. Things simply happened with no explanation… things that didn’t seem to fit the other information I’d already been given or the world I thought was taking shape and I had no explanation as to why these things were possible. The setting in Defiance seems pretty old-fashioned, perhaps bordering medieval, yet Rachel and James have access to some rather advanced technology… technology that no body else seemed to have access to.
Additionally, the characters seemed to get quite worked up things – everything was very dramatic – but I couldn’t help but think they were overacting or feel that the solutions were a bit too simple for how dire things were supposed to be.
I’m not against violence in YA by any means because I find that it usually has a point, but the violence in Defiance sometimes bordered on gratuitous. I really didn’t understand Rachel’s willingness to kill anything and anyone that stood in her way. She seemed to have so much anger all the time and truly could not see any other solution to her problems other than aggression. This was very odd to me, especially when I felt that there were definitely other options to explore. Instead of coming across as headstrong and determined, she came across as rather daft. I wanted her to think with her head, not with her fists!
Though I didn’t particularly like Rachel’s violent tendencies, I did appreciate that Redwine wasn’t afraid to kill off characters when it benefited the plot. There are a couple characters that I really liked and was sad to see go, but I could see the necessity of their deaths.
Defiance didn’t work for me, but I’ve read multiple positive reviews, so, if you’re intrigued by the premise and can overlook the gaps in the world building, I think it could be worth a read. Readers who are concerned with world building and a prefer more complex fantasy worlds, however, would be better off reading something by Juliet Marillier, Kristin Cashore, Alexandra Bracken, or Tamora Pierce.
Balzer & Bray, August 2012, Hardcover, ISBN:9780062117182, 403 pgs.