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“Diplomacy is a lot easier to accomplish if you’ve got your foe on his knees hoping you don’t lop off his head,” Rachel. –Defiance
by C.J. Redwine
Girls in Baalboden learn to be submissive and obey their male Protectors. While other girls learn how to sew dresses, Rachel’s father has been teaching her to survive in the wilderness and wield a sword. When her father, Jared, doesn’t return from a courier mission, everything changes for Rachel. When her father is declared dead, Rachel is assigned a new protector: her father’s apprentice. Now Rachel is commanded to obey Logan, the boy who rejected her two years ago. Rather than meekly obey, Rachel is determined to find her father and prove that he survived the Wasteland.
Logan is many things: orphan, outcast, inventor, 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 his mentor.
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.
Even though Rachel is headstrong and capable of defending herself, she is not a very likable character. Rachel often acts impulsively, which almost leads to her death. She is forced to go into the Wasteland with Melkin. When Melkin attacks her, Rachel kills him. Afterwards, she is overcome by guilt because she believes that Melkin wouldn’t have killed her. Although Rachel’s feeling of guilt is understandable, her reasoning doesn’t make sense. This is just one of many frustrating inconsistencies in this story that just don’t make sense.
While Defiance has some action-packed scenes, too much time is devoted to Rachel finding her father and then returning to the city. When Rachel finally makes it to her destination, she learns that her father has died, but left her a package, which Logan is supposed to destroy. Because of this, Rachel’s long journey into the Wasteland and back to Baalboden seems pointless.
Defiance jumps back and forth between Rachel’s and Logan’s points of view. Even though this allows the reader to understand both of their thoughts, readers may still have a hard time relating to either character. Much of the plot is devoted to the characters’ inner monologues, which revolve around their feelings for each other. Many of their troubles could have been easily prevented if they would have talked to each other. In addition, Logan is inconsiderate, controlling, and only thinks about himself. Unfortunately, there is little to like about Rachel or Logan.
The predictable villain, the characters’ inner monologues, and the plot inconsistencies will frustrate readers. The world building is so vague that it does little to add to the dystopian plot. Unfortunately, Defiance is an underdeveloped, forgettable story. If you’re looking for a must read end-of-the-world novel, you should leave Defiance on the shelf and instead read The Host by Stephanie Myer.
- Logan almost kisses Rachel. His “gaze wanders to her lips, and I can’t see anything but a thin trail of water gliding over her skin, gathering at the corner of her mouth, then slowly drifting toward her neck. . . I ache to press her against the wall and taste her.”
- Rachel thinks about Logan. “I remember the intensity in Logan’s eyes as we leaned close to each other in his kitchen. The way his hand felt pressed against my skin.”
- When Rachel is too distraught to speak, Logan is worried that she’s “been violated.”
- Logan notices Rachel’s breast. “The neckline dips down and curves over breasts I didn’t realize until just this minute were so . . . substantial. I force my eyes to scrape over her trim waist, but in seconds I’m staring once more at the way the glittering line of thread along her neckline barely contains her.”
- Logan and Rachel kiss multiple times. For example, while cleaning off in a lake, Rachel and Logan kiss. “His kiss is rough, tastes like lake water. . . and is the best thing I’ve ever felt. I press against him, consuming him like I’ll never get enough, and when we break apart, my pulse pounds against my ear. . .” The scene is described over a page.
- Logan grabs Rachel and pulls her close. Logan “can’t hear anything beyond the pounding of my heart and the soft catch of Rachel’s breath as I fist my hands in the back of her tunic and pull her against me like I can’t stand to have a single sliver of air between us.” The three pages of description imply that Logan and Rachel have sex.
- When Rachel argues with the Commander, “he grabs a handful of her hair and twists her around to face him. . . She hisses a quick gasp of pain but meets his eyes without flinching.”
- Logan frequently thinks back to his mother’s death. She was killed when she left the house without male supervision. Logan thinks about the Commander’s “whip falling in cruel precision across my mother’s back . . . my mother’s broken body lying lifeless at the Commander’s feet.”
- Rachel attempts to leave the compound. A guard begins to follow her. Logan takes a “leap forward, slam my fist into the side of his head, and drag his unconscious body back under the lip of the roof.” Both Rachel and Logan are captured.
- After the Commander captures Rachel and Logan, a guard “lays the edge of his sword against my [Rachel’s] neck. I raise my chin as the silver bites into my skin, but I refuse to beg for mercy.” At one point, the commander “swings his sword until the tip digs into the soft skin beneath my [Rachel’s] chin. . . The pain is sharp and quick, and a hot trickle of blood slowly snakes its way down my neck.” The Commander eventually lets the two go. The scene is described over five pages.
- Rachel and Logan ignore the Commander’s orders and the Brute Squad grabs Rachel. “The Commander’s sword plunges deep into the chest of the guard beside me. The man makes a wet gurgling noise in the back of his throat as he reaches up to grasp the blade embedded in his chest. Blood pools beneath his palm and slides along the silver in a single, sinuous streak as he slowly crumples to the floor.”
- The Cursed One attacks. “It looks like a huge wingless dragon, nearly half the height of the wall, and just as thick. . .” The citizens try to get back into the city wall. The Commander “slashes with the whip, driving people into the side of the wall. One man can’t move out of his way fast enough, and the Commander rides over the top of him. The man lies crumpled and still in the Commander’s wake.” Many people are killed, but their deaths are not described.
- In order to get Rachel to obey, the Commander shows Rachel someone covered in cloth. He “smiles and drives his sword into the lump. Whoever is trapped beneath the cloth sucks in a raspy breath and moans. Blood blossoms beneath the cloth and spreads like a fast-blooming rose.” When the cloth is removed, Rachel sees her grandfather Oliver, who dies from his wounds.
- Rachel and Logan are walking home when three drunk men try to rob them. Rachel freaks out and “she whips her knife out of its sheath, raises it above her head, and rushes toward the men. . .” Logan jumps in and “slam[s] the butt of my sword into the man closest to me, whirl to block a blow from the other. . .” After a brief struggle, the men run away.
- While at a ceremony, Rachel defies the Commander. He “let’s go of my arm to backhand me across the face. I tumble to the floor and see Logan, sword raised, face ablaze, charge the Commander.” People begin to run as Logan “drives his shoulder into the first guard who reaches him, sends the man flying off the stage, and whirls to block the sword thrust of another.”
- Rachel joins the fight and “a guard jumps in front of me. I drive my knife through his stomach, twist it to the right, and yank it free while he’s still in the act of telling me to halt. Crimson splashes onto my pretty blue skirt.”
- The Commander catches Logan and, “In seconds, he has his sword against Logan’s neck, and his vicious smile twists his scar into an ugly, knotted ball of picked flesh.” Several guards die. Rachel threatens to kill herself, so the Commander doesn’t kill Logan.
- The Commander throws Logan into prison. The two men argue and the Commander “lunges for me [Logan], but I duck back. Swinging the chains up, I wrap them around his arm. One swift jerk and I fling him onto the filthy floor of the cell. He lands hard, and I drive my knee into his back, but the guards outside the cell are already on me.” The guards repeatedly hit Logan. “Pain flares to life within me, and it’s all I can do to curl up in a ball and endure as the guards use me as their punching bag.”
- The Commander brands Logan’s neck. “The smell of scorched skin fills the air, and I retch as brilliant spots dance in front of my eyes. I drag in a deep breath and try to ride out the worst of the agony, but it refuses to abate.”
- While looking for Rachel in the wasteland, Logan finds a soldier on guard duty. When the man hears him, Logan drops “to my knees, grab the dagger in my boot, and thrust it up as his momentum drives his abdomen onto my blade.”
- The Commander sends Rachel and Melkin into the Wasteland to retrieve a package. Once they find the package, Melkin tries to take it from Rachel. “He’s in the air, long legs dropping down, his face a mask of murderous intent. I broke his right wrist. The weapon must be in his left hand. . . Flipping my blade around, I push myself off the ground and bury my knife deep into his chest. . . His blood seeps along the knife hilt, thick and warm, and coats my hand.” Melkin dies.
- Logan knows that a tracker is hunting Rachel. The tracker “turns, but he’s too late. I slam into him, wrap my hands around his throat, and drive both of us onto the ground. . . His knife arm goes up, and his eyes lock on mine, but before I can react, an arrow sinks into the narrow space between his eyes with a soft thud. He shudders, his body sags. . .”
- The Cursed One attacks a battalion. “The beast rears back, swings its head to the left, and strafes the line of Rowansmark soldiers with fire. The flames incinerate most of them on the spot, but a few fall to the ground wailing in agony.”
- In the multi-chapter conclusion, the Cursed One attacks a city. “Fire leaps from the creature’s mouth. Two members of the Brute Squad are incinerated and then crushed beneath the thing’s monstrous length as it races forward.”
- Logan can hear “the citizens in the East Quarter are screaming in agony . . . And through it all, the monstrous shape of the Cursed One coils, lashing out with its tail to crush wagons, buildings, and people.”
- Logan and a group of people throw jars filled with explosives. When they hit the Cursed One the explosives “blow a section of its tail to pieces.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Logan goes into a tavern, the owner, “slaps a heavy wooden mug filled with ale in front of me, though I haven’t ordered a drink.”
- Logan mentions a man who “can’t hold his liquor.”
- While in prison, someone gives Logan medicine to help relieve his pain.
- Rachel wants Oliver to leave the city. Oliver says, “I aim to be great-granddaddy, if that takes riding an ass across a godforsaken wilderness. I guess that’s what I’ll do.”
- Hell is used once.
- When the Commander forces Rachel to agree to his plan, she prays that “I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life.”
- When the Commander shows Rachel a man covered in a cloth, she “prayed it would be a stranger.”
- During a fight, Rachel prays “Logan isn’t already dead.”
- Rachel accidentally tells Logan that he is handsome. Then she prays “he’ll change the subject.”
- When the Cursed One attacks, Logan prays “the citizens there heard the screaming of their neighbors and had enough warning to start running.”