Review: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Monday, July 23, 2012
Title: Defiance
Author: C.J. Redwine
Genre: young-adult, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, dystopia
Series: Defiance #1
Pages: 315 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected August 28 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3.5/5

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

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.

There's a lot going on in those three-hundred-odd pages, the first-of-a-new-series by author C.J. Redwine. Defiance boasts a mix of several genres and subgenres, two decently flawed and interesting narrators and protagonists, and one of them a strongish female main character, as well as plenty of action and adventure to lure in readers and keep them invested.  Like my other 3.5/5 ratings, I want to stress that I really enjoyed this, particularly after the rough beginning, but just thought it could have been better with a little time and finesse. As it is, there's a lot to enjoy about this easily read, fast-engrossing young-adult novel. Uneven pacing, character issues aside, I am pretty impressed with C.J. Redwine's debut novel, and think it will find a wide audience. Defiance, at its best, is an inventive, creative and unpredictable novel, and for me, that was enough to merit an somewhat enthusiastic review.

The setting of tyrant-controlled Baalboden and the destroyed world Rachel and Logan live in is both a strength and a weakness for Defiance. The interesting mix of fantasy with flightless dragons (or "the Cursed One") and the post-apocalyptic clues/vocabulary ("periodic table" "algorithms" "Pythagorean theorem") make this world seem like it's possible version of the real world rather than a pure-fantasy imaginary land. But sadly not enough detail or worldbuilding is provided to for readers to form a clear, believable picture of what lead to this apocalyptic scenario or the picture the current conditions that the characters live in. What we do know about it/Baalboden/the world before the Cursed One comes early in the novel, and then bare lip-service is paid to creating a plausible current situation as much more time and attention is given to Rachel and Logan's struggles against the Commander and their alternating inner monologues. This is a first in a series so I am sure more detail and concrete answers are on the way, but the omission and neglect of information often got in the way of my truly being involved in the story.

Much like the setting, Rachel is both a credit to and a flaw for Defiance. (It doesn't help that her "voice" and that of Logan's can read almost interchangeably for the majority of the novel.) She's presented as a strong, headstrong girl in a misogynistic, patriarchal world that misuses and mistreats its women so it's obviously very easy to root for her, but she's also careless, self-absorbed, and stubborn beyond belief. The respective backstories for both her and Logan are delivered somewhat clumsily in infodumpy dialogue, but Redwine outgrows that early on and it doesn't overshadow the the narrative for too long. I like flawed characters, I appreciate them much more than a perfect protagonist with no life or vivacity, but Rachel can sometimes be very frustrating to read because she is so determined to make her own way without telling anyone or trusting her family. 

It's also frustrating for me that Rachel is literally the only girl in her walled city-state that can defend herself - it can make her bloodthirsty and dangerous personality look a bit inorganic for the novel and its setting. Surely Jared can't be the only parent who wants his daughter to able to defend herself in a world where a woman can be flogged to death for going outside without her "Protector"? That quibble aside, Rachel does eventually grow up and change for the better throughout the novel, so it's impossible to call her a one-dimensional character or even stagnant. I have high hopes for this character and her further characterization in the future books, as well as for fellow females Willow and Sylph to grow into more than just cardboard cutouts.

A strong-ish female protagonist, an interesting mix of fantasy and tech, dystopia and post-apocalyptic scenarios all make for a unique novel in the vein of The Hunger Games, etc. Fans who aren't too picky about their worldbuilding and detail with find much to enjoy here, especially those who enjoy bittersweet teenaged romance. The beginning is the roughest part to enjoy and get into, but once things start to gel together, it's easy to get lost in the story at the heart of the novel.

4 comments:

  1. Good review! I've had this one for a while, think i'll give it a go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's very entertaining. I hope you enjoy!

      Delete
  2. Fabu review, as usual -- you articulate much of what I suspect would stick out or bug me -- or alternatively, impress me. I'll pass on this until you review the next book in the series -- if you do -- and see if it's worth getting invested in. I'm not totally sold.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so excited for this book. Especially since you say Rachel is a
    strong, smart protagonist. And I get super annoyed by insta-love too.
    Thanks for the chance to win!

    Maycee (Plumbing Puyallup)

    ReplyDelete

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