Photo by Antoine Hubert
Sixty days have passed since Rachel's father Jared was expected to return to the walled city of Baalboden, and the brutally strict Commander has pronounced him dead. Rachel refuses to believe that her father really is dead, holding onto the hope that if she escapes the city, she will find him in the world outside.
Logan is Rachel's new Protector, assigned to care for her and make sure she obeys the Commander's rules until she reaches Claiming age and is given to a husband. He doesn't believe that Jared is dead either, but he wants to keep Rachel safe inside the city, away from the fire-breathing Cursed Ones that claw their way out of the ground and scorch everything around them. But Rachel's belief that her father still lives arouses the Commander's suspicions, and soon both she and Logan are struggling to evade his cruel machinations and rescue the people of Baalboden.
I liked Rachel as a heroine. She's strong and determined and knows how to take care of herself, and it was a nice change to read about a girl character that didn't start off as a helpless child who needed to be taught how to survive. I enjoyed seeing Rachel make hard choices and kick butt.
I was less interested in Logan, especially once it became clear that he was good at everything! At first I was expecting that he would be the studious, intellectual one, whilst Rachel would do all the physical saving-the-day, but then it turned out he could fight too. His only flaw seems to be that he can't outwit the Commander and gets angry sometimes. I'm sure plenty of readers won't mind this, but I thought it made their partnership a bit unbalanced, as Rachel doesn't have any skills that are hers alone, whereas Logan has a lot of science and technology knowledge that she doesn't share.
I didn't get excited about the romance, but I really enjoyed the plot. There are lots of twists and all the reveals come really slowly, which is frustrating at times but makes it an easy book to keep reading. There is quite a lot that the author left unexplained, which on the one hand is good, because there is lots to look forward to in the next book, but on the other, it stopped me becoming as absorbed in the world of Defiance as I wanted to be.
Baalboden's society has medieval elements - the ceremonies, the type of jobs people do - and women are effectively property, passed from Protector to Claimer. However, there are sprinklings of futuristic technology, so we are led to believe that the time period in which the story takes place is yet to come. There is a brief description of the events that led up to the founding of Baalboden, mostly to explain why the Commander is so powerful, but it was a bit vague.
The Commander is supposed to be over seventy years old, yet he is fit and strong and agile enough to fight Logan - and I wanted to know why. It's not that all the characters live longer and healthier lives in this novel than people do in reality - Rachel's friend Oliver is about the same age, I guessed, but acts appropriately elderly. I would really like to know what's going on there. And why he hates women. I couldn't imagine why the people would have let the Commander impose such a restricted lifestyle onto them if they had previously lived in a society at least as free as my own. Perhaps everything will be fully explained in later books in this series, but I think the setting would have seemed more believable if the history of Rachel and Logan's world had been explored in more detail in Defiance.
I think that Defiance provides a reasonable set-up for the rest of the series. It's not as strong a beginning as, say, Under the Never Sky, but that's another post for another day! I would like to read the next book when it comes out and see if the ground that Defiance didn't cover is fully explored.
Thank you, Atom Books, for the review copy.