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Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
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Defiance

Defiance - C.J. Redwine A strong heroine, a story of adventure, a sadistic dystopian world. These descriptors made DEFIANCE one of my top ten most wanted books of 2012. I waited impatiently on pins and needles until I finally had it on my Kindle. I dove in without an ounce of reluctance but with all the expectations I could possibly have. And there was my downfall. I expected nothing less than amazing, but what DEFIANCE did for me in the end was leave me very, very disappointed.I am a huge fan of dystopian worlds – if done well. In DEFIANCE, we find a post-apocalyptic world that has fallen victim to the Cursed One, a dragon-like creature stirred from where it slept deep underground by geologists (if you have seen the movie Reign of Fire with Christian Bale, it’s basically the same plot). In the city-state of Baalboden, one of the last remaining refuges against the creature that hunts by sound alone (take Reign of Fire and now mix it with Tremors), a Taliban-like state has risen where women are oppressed by men – unable to have a real education, unable to leave their homes without their protectors, and forced into a Claiming Ceremony at age 17 where a man literally claims them. Rachel Adams, our heroine, has lost her father on his latest mission. He’s declared dead, leaving her desperate to find him – with the help of the boy who spurned her declaration of love two years ago.Oh, DEFIANCE…This book has an amazing premise, but what the story unfolds into is just disappointing. I won’t call it one of the worst books of the year. Redwine’s talents as a writer are clear from page one, with vivid descriptions and a powerful plot line with expert pacing. And she sure can write a summary. But what the story lacks is what I look for most in a story – world building and realistic character development.The world in DEFIANCE left a lot unexplained other than the bare basics. Questions like the origin of the Cursed One are kind of addressed, but never explained in detail – nor how the Cursed One can travel across the continent (what continent?) in a few hours underground. When we get to Baalboden, we have more questions. Where is this place? When does this take place? Is it a fantasy or post-apocalyptic? The answer to that one is post-apocalyptic actually, but it takes awhile to figure that out. How did Baalboden end up like Afghanistan circa 2000? There are more questions without many answers.Likewise, the characters are strange. On page one, we meet the strong and indomitable Rachel Adams, a girl who has shirked the Baalboden womanly ideals of modesty and obedience for the metallic clang of a sword. By the last page, though, while remaining one of the more kick butt girls in YA, she has fallen into the trope of “I can’t live without my boy toy.” And let me say, the romance in this one is mushy – between Rachel, who loses her bite in a whirlwind of woe is me, and Logan, a boy with issues of his own and some anger issues.When a boy punches a wall and posits that maybe the girl deserved some of that anger, it’s not a good sign for the story itself. DEFIANCE falls into the pit of being unable to define itself outside of tropes and to set it apart from a crowded field of dystopians with ambiguous world building. Even resting on the laurels of immaculate writing can only help this book to an extent.Would I recommend DEFIANCE? Well, that depends. I can see how many will love this book and vault it to the top of their best of 2012 list. But for others that generally need bulk to go with their pretty, you might have trouble with this and I would say skip it. Although I am curious to see where Redwine goes with book two…VERDICT: Without the world building and confidence in its vision to stand above a crowded genre, DEFIANCE falls victim to tropes and gloss, relying on romance and prose to make up for a lack of real bite.