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Defiance review

Dragons, danger and desire collide in the first in a new dystopian fantasy series…

Defiance (Courier’s Daughter Trilogy) by C. J. Redwine

September 2012, Atom

Book jacket blurb:

Rachel’s world is confined to the protective walls around her city. Beyond them are violent wanderers, extreme terrain, and a danger straight out of legend: a beast called the Cursed One that devastates everything in its path.

When Rachel’s father goes missing, she is desperate to search for him. But her attempts to flee the city bring her to the attention of its overbearing ruler. His efforts to control her make the world within the walls seem as dangerous as that outside.

Her only chance at escape is Logan. Once her father’s apprentice, and now her only protector, he feels that helping her might mean losing her completely. But if he can put his feelings aside, they might be able to save more than Rachel’s father. They might be able to break down the walls, and set their people free.


In her debut novel, C. J. Redwine has combined fantasy and dystopia to create a totally engrossing world. The setting at first felt familiar, almost like a fairy tale – a walled city where people live in terror of the Cursed One, a fire-breathing dragon. But it’s actually an imagined post-apocalyptic future, in which dragons have laid waste to the man-made world. I have to admit I found the explanation behind the dragons’ existence a little hard to swallow – but as I was so gripped by the story it didn’t really matter. The city state of Baalboden is ruled with an iron fist by the brutal Commander Chase, who wields a mysterious power over the Cursed One that prevents it crossing the city walls. Beyond lies the Wasteland, the domain of dangerous highwaymen and couriers from rival city states. Some technology still exists, though its primary function seems to be to control the population through the use of Identidiscs.

At the centre of the tale is sixteen-year-old Rachel, a fiery, strong-willed redhead who, rather than mastering the arts of cooking and sewing like most repressed Baalboden girls, has become a dab hand at sword-swinging and survival techniques, thanks to the instruction of her father Jared, one of the city’s finest couriers. But now Jared has disappeared into the Wasteland, and Rachel is determined to track him down.

Sharing the narrative voice with Rachel across alternate chapters is Logan, three years older than Rachel, an orphan taken under Jared’s wing as an apprentice. His mother was mercilessly slain by the Commander for breaking the law, and he is a technological whizz-kid – the author has described him as: ‘Basically, if MacGuyver and Sherlock Holmes had a baby, it would be Logan.’

There is crackling tension between the pair – mainly because Rachel still feels sore about Logan rebuffing her declaration of love a couple of years back. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, her former crush is assigned as her official Protector in the absence of her father, which makes Logan feel pretty awkward, too. With the Commander standing in her way, though, it seems they will have to work together if they are to ever find Rachel’s dad – and soon they realise that much more is at stake.

So that’s how things kick off, and the adventure continues at pretty much break-neck pace from there on in, making it a real page-turner. Rachel and Logan step from one sticky situation to another, with a few nasty shocks thrown at them and some cunning techno-wizardry solutions dreamt up by Logan along the way. There’s a fair amount of violence and trauma; one thing I really liked was that the impact of these events on the characters isn’t glossed over, as it is with so many other action-led books – it makes for some emotional reading in places.

The dual narrative format worked well because the author has succeeded in crafting two distinct and convincing voices – Logan is logical, analytical, socially and emotionally inept at times, while Rachel is fierce, headstrong, gutsy, and displays deep loyalty and love for those dear to her. I enjoyed how their relationship played out, through blush-inducing awkwardness and begrudging admiration to page-sizzling passion.

The Commander, meanwhile, is the true archetypal scar-faced evil villain who always manages to gain the upper hand and never thinks twice about killing innocents who get in his way. He really doesn’t have any redeeming features, which made him feel a tad two-dimensional to me – but maybe we’ll learn more about his back story and what made him so evil and twisted later on in the series. 

The author certainly leaves a few threads hanging at the end of the book – I’m looking forward to finding out how she’ll weave them together in the next instalment.

Leave a comment


  1. Herman

     /  October 24, 2012

    There’s nothing quite like a defiant, strong-willed redhead!

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