by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Given #1
Published on April 11, 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.
Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.
Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.
The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.
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I wanted to love Given to the Sea SO so much. I mean an all-consuming love for a book that I knew was going to be magical and original and all things right with the world. And I think my expectations were a bit too high.
Let’s start with the basics: the multiple points of view. It’s common enough in fantasy, not a shocker. But when you do that, ALL the characters need to be strong and I just don’t think the members of this cast pulled their weight equally. You have Khosa and Vincent, both told in first person PoV, who seem to be the major players while the other two appear in third PoV and are more designated as secondary. Was that the intention? I don’t know, but I didn’t care about the characters equally and, in fact, I didn’t really about any of the characters at all.
This is a struggle because I’ve read another book by this author (The Female of the Species) where the characters were SO strong and yes, I can’t compare books especially in different genres but it’s hard having read both to not see the differences. I felt like the author focused so much on this unique idea of the Given and these different cultures and her unique way of telling the story because, yes, this book was not like any fantasy I’ve read before. But in all that, I felt the characters suffered, and even the world-building.
Given to the Sea has such a rich, beautiful world it’s situated in but you barely get a glimpse. You see more of the people and I’ve established that I wasn’t a fan of that so that doesn’t bode well. But the world had issues too. We talk about problematic books and I was a bit surprised that an entire group of people had disabilities and were seen as lesser for it. The Indiri are seen as uncultured and their entire race save for two people wiped out. The Pietra send any who are remotely weak, body or mind, to die at sea. The Stillean are the “perfect” people. Though the book addresses some of these characteristics, I can’t say it sat well with me.
Also, if you are triggered by rape, there is both discussion and a pretty detailed scene so fair warning.
Now back to those characters. This book featured romance that seemed to wind its way through most of the characters which was crazy but alright. Let’s see how that goes. Well… we got a love triangle-square thing. I don’t even know. It was a mess and felt completely unnecessary. And in the middle is Khosa who can’t bear human touch because of her genes but has to get pregnant to fulfill her destiny and I’m just sitting here like WTF is actually happening.
Honestly the whole plot was like that. You have Khosa, Vincent, and Dara (3 of the 4 PoVs) at the castle along with Dara’s twin Donil. And they’re just chillin’ there dealing with their angsty emotions. And then there’s Witt who’s supposed to be heartless but isn’t completely leading an army in the fringes but they don’t really accomplish anything in the end so his character and most of the others didn’t hold much weight for me.
This book was all over the place. I was never grounded in the world and never connected with the characters. And for a fantasy, that’s really important to me. Perhaps I’m harsher about this genre than others because I read it more frequently than most but my expectations were high and this Sea couldn’t rise to meet them.