Book Review: Disappointed in “Defiance”

defiance Defiance by C.J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date: August 28th 2012
Genre: Fantasy
My rating: Dreadful trip!

What began with great promise petered out before the halfway mark. The story is interesting, for the most part, but the prose/narration couldn’t hold my interest.

The plot follows an unusual young girl: independent, outspoken, trained to fight and think. In this world, which hints at post-apocalyptic Earth, the old civilization, with its tall metal buildings and large cities, has been destroyed by a greedy wealthy man who dug too deep for fuel, and woke burrowing, dragon-like creatures, who laid waste to the land. In the aftermath, a group of men went into the beasts’ lair to try to destroy them, and failed – but emerged as powerful leaders, built cities behind great walls, and mysteriously protected the cities’ citizens. The most powerful of all has ruled his city with an iron fist, and a particular dislike for women. Each woman is assigned a Protector, without whom she can legally go nowhere. She is taught only Life Skills, which is your basic housewife training. Rachel, our heroine, has unusually been taught to defend herself, to think for herself, and to be independent. A case of the overindulgent single father.

The story opens with the disappearance of the heroine’s father, and the transference of his Protectorship to his young apprentice. Some romantic tension exists between the heroine and her new protector. The two set up house together, and each plans (separately) to find out what happened to her father. Unfortunately, this lands them in trouble with the villain, and the story evolves from there, with betrayal, death, deception, travel, and danger.

Interesting element: technology. I had expected more fantasy, less steampunk.

What prevented me from enjoying this book was the narrative style. Both narrators, the heroine and her new Protector, narrate in the first person. This by itself is often fine, but the author’s focus is on the internal thoughts and motivations of the characters, which distracted me from the story and often grew tedious. The narrative voices are mostly interchangeable. Ultimately, it felt as though the author told instead of showing. The story was never brought to life.

Additionally, although Rachel’s character starts out with great promise, an individual rule-breaker and living example of women’s abilities to live outside the restrictive expectations of this patriarchal society, her potential as a good role model for young readers is stunted by the hero, and love interest, Logan. Logan often perpetuates some of the harmful lies and misogynistic views that are far too prevalent in our own society. He hurts, controls, and belittles Rachel. Thus, the reader is left with contradictory impressions of the author’s beliefs: a strong heroine is able to defend and provide for herself, but her chosen hero reflects the anti-women behaviors and beliefs that the heroine has struggled against her whole life. The premise of Rachel’s character is undermined by the author’s execution (i.e., rendering) of Logan’s character and the world.

I had trouble finishing this one. I did find myself intensely interested in a supporting character called Quinn, however I will not return to this series.

Read-alikes

For more (and better executed) kick-butt young heroines who don’t always fit into their worlds’ standard perceptions of young women and who have adventures in fantastic settings, try these (if you haven’t already):

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) Shadowfell (Shadowfell #1) Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

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