1.5 starsWell, T.I.A. 1It’s been a while since I’ve found it such a struggle to finish a book. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, I wouldn’t have reached the end of Defiance without resorting to pep-talks, a bit of page-skimming and outright bribery. ”You can do it! Finish this chapter and then you can eat all the chocolate in the house!” Is anyone able to clear something up for me? Does Defiance take place in the future of our world, or an alternate world? Because if it’s ours, and Redwine is suggesting that the modern world was destroyed by fire-breathing reptiles and within fifty years surviving mankind has returned to swords and “Cursed Ones”, I have a hard time swallowing that. And it’s not even the burrowing, wingless dragons I take issue with – if you want to get all Tremors on your fictional word, by all means go ahead 2. But the thin allusion to a world of advanced technology that is completely obliterated within five decades and replaced with a system of self-styled warlords and walled cities is too flimsy for me to buy into. Further, Baalboden – the city where our main characters reside – and possibly the greater population, has adopted a strict social system in which women are under the direct care and authority of a male Protector. They are not educated except in housekeeping and entertaining skills, are not permitted to leave their homes unchaperoned and are “Claimed” or married off in a transactional ceremony in which they have little to no agency. Okay, fine. But why? Explain it to me. Show me why the world is this way. This is a poorly built world and it felt illogical too me – there are too many holes in the reasoning, or rather, no reasoning at all. And much of the novel is like this. Redwine has good ideas, but little follow through. Logan, the orphaned protégé of Rachel’s father, is ostensibly an apprenticed Courier. But really, he’s a sekrit “inventor”. We know this because Logan has lots of plans lying about and ink-stained fingers and does a lot of tinkering around with gears and wires. Yet there’s nothing to substantiate Logan’s alleged genius. Sure, if comes in handy when they need tracking devices and or some MacGyver-style explosions, but besides vague references to sonar and acid, it all just seems more convenient than believable. There’s an attempt to distinguish Logan’s voice as pragmatic by detailing his assessments of “best case scenarios” and “worst case scenarios” as he narrates, but this is more annoying than particularly character building. The romance is probably the most developed element of the story, and it’s constantly in the background of the plot, yet it was also the undoing of this novel for me. The slow burn between the characters was somewhat spoiled by the way it was overwritten. “Until the distance between us can be measured in breaths” is fair enough once, say it twice and I’m just going to roll my eyes. Logan and Rachel vacillate between irritation and attraction to each other, and we’re treated to numerous scenes of catching breath and heated exchanges and lingering touches, all described in fulsome, detailed prose. This was my biggest problem with the novel: the writing. It’s bloated with unnecessary description, phrases that are overly “pretty”. And so many “something’s”. “Something like bitterness”, “something like hope” etc are used constantly to describe the manifestation of emotion. Just say what it is! Direct statements are avoided by dancing around them with purplish musing, and the pacing of the story suffers for it. I can only describe the writing as gluggy: my brain my kept getting bogged down in Logan and Rachel’s angsting, and getting through pages began to feel like a chore. Anyway, Rachel and Logan are separated, eventually reunited, do some travelling, make some friends with “tree people” (I’m not going to start on it here, but so much about the characterisation of Quinn and Willow made me uncomfortable), Rachel becomes a vengeful BAMF – or Redwine tries to convince us that she does – there’s some kissing, and then there’s some Pied Piper of Baalboden action 3. There a nice, big, sign-posted moment of FORESHADOWING about Logan’s past. Logan doesn’t like the way Tree Person Quinn is looking at Rachel (of course) and a shit-tonne of people die, but no doubt our intrepid couple will be back in the sequel to fight the power and wave their weapons around. Or something like that. And good luck to them, but I’m done here.  Tamara, ILY!  See: Blood Red Road by Moira Young Which had the unfortunate side effect of making me dredge Sisqo’s Unleash the Dragon up from the recesses of my brain. You’re welcome.