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From the opening lines of Defiance, I fell headfirst and heart-second into the world of Baalboden, a walled city where Rachel Adams is devastated when her father, who has not returned from his last courier mission, is deemed deceased. Strong, willful Rachel is incensed, and her brightly burning inner fire shows for the first time, but not for the last, when she is assigned a new Protector in place of her father - a male to watch over her and guard her - and that Protector turns out to be her father's apprentice, whom she shares a tormented history with. Between her grief for her father and her unquenchable desire to prove he is alive, and her stubbornness to accept Logan McEntire as her Protector due to her pride, I loved Rachel immediately.
Throughout Defiance, I fell harder and harder for the main characters, both Rachel and also Logan. Defiance is told through dual narrative, and while at times that plot device doesn't work for me, in this case, it really did. It served to give us a glimpse into BOTH character's thinking, actions, and motivations. Rachel has a huge heart and cares deeply for her loved ones, but that same heart also leads her to make mistakes just as often as it leads her in the right direction. And Logan....oh Logan. How many times did I swoon over him? Logan's motives are so pure, and it's immediately clear that he cares so much for Rachel, yet is torn between a sense of duty and what his heart REALLY wants. C.J. Redwine has created fantastic, identifiable characters in Rachel and Logan, amazing leads to carry Defiance! I adored watching them interact, seeing the feelings and fire simmering between them, and mostly, watching their relationship GROW over the course of Defiance.
C.J. Redwine weaves various fantasy elements into her debut novel, but adds her own splashes of originality. Baalboden is ruled by the Commander, who rose to fame and the leadership position after defeating the beast that stalks the Wastelands beyond the wall. Commander Chase is a remarkably cruel character, who I immediately hated - and I applaud C.J. for creating such strong emotions in me for both the heroes AND the villains! Both Rachel and Logan have their own reasons to escape the Commander and Baalboden, and I loved that there was an astounding mythos underlying in Defiance that complimented the characters. I thought the male-driven society was VERY fascinating, and I admired Rachel's fire in standing up for herself, and, despite the danger, in daring to be DIFFERENT.
From the tender and sweet budding romance between Rachel and Logan, to the sense of malice and danger threaded through Defiance, there was nothing I didn't love. Redwine takes us on a wild ride, from the walled city to the Wastelands and beyond, as Rachel risks everything to track her father. Along the way, she is tested in so many ways, ways that would break a normal person, but Rachel ENDURED and grew stronger and more determined, as did Logan. I admired how they eventually became so in sync with one another's feelings and needs, and how devoted they were to one another and to their goals. Watching them overcome their past and come together was just TOO sweet, and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.
I can't recommend Defiance highly enough. It earned a "swoon-worthy" rating from me because by the end, I felt like I'd gone through the emotional ringer with both Rachel and Logan. I laughed, swooned, and I wept. I felt as cold as stone when Rachel did, and hopeful and excited when she did. There was never a time reading when I was bored or irritated; instead, I was captivated from the beginning to the end, which despite the book's length, came too soon for me. I cannot wait for the sequel, and I encourage everyone to experience this novel! It's an amazing addition to the YA fantasy genre, with elements of steampunk and historical romance, as well! I know Defiance hasn't left my mind or heart since I finished it, and I think you'll feel the same way!