by Susanne Winnacker
Series: Variants, #2
Released on: June 26th, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: FLIP. THAT. SHIP.
Tessa has finally made peace with her life as a Variant. She and long-time love Alec are officially a couple, and for the first time, she has everything she wants.
But the air is tense at FEA headquarters. An agent has disappeared, and rogue variant organization Abel’s Army is likely the culprit.
When Tessa is summoned for her second mission, she is unexpectedly launched into a massive conspiracy. Her best friend Holly is kidnapped and Tessa knows it was meant to be her. But who is after her? And more importantly, why?
When the FEA’s efforts to rescue Holly don’t yield any results, Tessa takes matters into her own hands. Desperate to save her friend and uncover the mystery behind Abel’s Army, Tessa launches her own investigation—but nothing could prepare her for what she finds. Everyone in her life is harboring secrets: Alec, her estranged mother, even the father she never knew.
The truth will take her out on the road and out of her comfort zone, with danger lurking everywhere. Summoning all of her courage and strength, Tessa must decide who can be trusted and what is worth fighting for—even if it means going against the life she thought she wanted. Her final decision will leave readers breathless.
I can't believe these books had flown under my radar for so long, because damn, they're good. Whereas Impostor could be pitched as Veronica Mars meets X-Men, Defector could be pitched as Scandal meets X-Men, and both just as awesome those pitches would imply. In Impostor, the focus was more on the plot than the characters and relationships, which I was okay with since the plot was fun and the mystery, engaging. Defector, on the other hand, has all of the aspects of the plot that made the first one so much fun, with added character growth and relationship development, both of which are stellar. Basically, in Defector, Susanne Winnicker took all of the things I had disliked in the first book and flipped them, and I could not be more pleased with the outcome.
I loved Tessa's character in Impostor, with her tendency to defend and stick up for herself, but I think I may love her even more so in Defector. From book one, Tessa was vocal about her not needing protection from her boyfriend, Alec, or anyone else, despite their protests. This was my favorite thing about Tessa: how she was honest with Alec and wouldn't accept any protection from him because she knew she could fare well on her own. She's not a damsel in distress and is able to fend for herself, and it shows in Defector. Tessa's character arc evolves her into her own person as she tries to discover herself and her origins, and finally make decisions on her own, which she hadn't felt she'd been able to do much under the watch of the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities). I loved seeing this particular character growth, and also loved how she was rational under circumstances other authors may have portrayed their characters distraught. The only thing with Tessa's character that I wasn't a huge fan of was that some select moments bordered on describing her as "not like other girls" without actually saying it.
BUT, the development that I am most happy (read: relieved) with is the relationship development, namely the romance. The main aspect of Impostor that kept me from loving it completely was the romance, in which I felt Alec was overprotective and, as a whole, unlikable. I liked that they had bonded over classic horror movies, as that is the way to get to my heart, but that was it. A lot of big and interesting twists are taken into play nearly halfway through the novel that put Tessa's relationships to the test, and it did so really well. To not skirt around the topic, there is something of a love triangle present in Defector. I say "something" because Tessa is only interested in one love interest at a time, but theoretically they are both there and I can see both working out in future installments, although I hope not because I have a wonderful ship now. In this new relationship, it's actually acknowledged that Tessa can protect herself and the love interest respects that; the two have more chemistry than the previous ship in Impostor, and the bonding between the two holds more depth than just watching horror films and making out. Both Tessa and her love interest try to learn more about each other's lives and understand their origins, and it was all a damn pleasant and cute development. Not to mention the love interest thought he was a wizard after seeing Harry Potter as a child due to his mutations/powers. That alone probably would have sold me onto him and the ship.
Even with all the character growth and relationship development, Susanne Winnacker still manages to weave a tight and engaging plot that is just as intense as the aforementioned Scandal meets X-Men would have you believe. The political aspects were thoroughly intriguing, and I liked how we got to see more of the world and differing points-of-view with the rebels and their cause. There are confrontations aplenty, along with action and twists and betrayal, all of which made for an extremely fun and quick read yet again. To those who haven't read these books yet: you're sincerely missing out.