Dystopian romance that seems to have it all, yet still needs a little more
In C. J. Redwine’s debut novel, Defiance, Rachel Adams doesn’t want to admit the possible truth: that her father, the city’s best tracker and courier, may be dead. Finding herself essentially orphaned, Rachel is appalled to learn that her new Protector will be Logan, her father’s apprentice and the boy who rejected her love two years ago. When she and Logan realize that her father may still be alive and in horrible danger, they concoct a plan to slip past the gated walls of the city to find him. By doing so, they risk death in the Wastelands, the dangerous area outside the wall, or death within the city, where the cruel ruler could kill them for treason.
With its combination of action, romance, and a dystopian setting, Defiance is sure to be a hit. The novel is a very quick, easy read that flows along from beginning to end with excellent pacing throughout. Tension-filled, sometimes harrowing, action scenes move the story along, and Rachel is a feisty, capable heroine who stands up for herself and her loved ones. Redwine’s writing is strong overall and, at times, beautiful in its descriptiveness. Several important themes also underscore the story, including the importance of family (both those we are related to and those we choose) and how violence changes people.
Despite this promising combination of elements, the characters or their struggles never truly resonated with me. I had fun reading the book, but I also had an uncomfortable sense at all times that I should be feeling more strongly about the characters and what was happening to them. Though based on a solid foundation, the romance was too predictable to have much tension, and the voices of the two narrators (Rachel and Logan) felt too similar. Most notably, I was distracted by the novel’s lack of world building. The setting had many hallmarks of a popular dystopian book – a totalitarian government with a cruel leader, no fuel or electricity, tracking devices implanted into each citizen, and a patriarchal system where women are controlled by men – but the reason for this society and its development was never explained. As a reader, I could never grasp where and when this story was supposed to be taking place. When a fantasy element was introduced on top of this, it felt out of place and unnecessary. Overall, the story just felt too much like other underdeveloped dystopian adventure tales.
Even though I was disappointed in the romance and the lack of world building, I enjoyed Defiance enough that I plan to read the coming books in the trilogy to see what Rachel and Logan do next. In future installments, I hope Redwine does more to explore and expand the world she’s created and that she brings some more novel elements to her story.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.