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Given to the Sea (Given Duet) Hardcover – 10 Mar 2017
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*Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Novel for A Madness So Discreet*Mindy McGinnis has been nominated for an Anthony Award PRAISE FOR Given to the Sea
"Star-crossed love is at the heart of this darkly vivid tale, woven with hypnotic prose and captivatingly intense characters [. . .] Readers will be hypnotized by their relationships as well as the allure of the created world in this first book of the Given duet." --Romantic Times
"[T]his book isn't just about love triangles (or squares): themes of duty and fate are thickly woven into the fabric of this tale as each character grapples with balancing moral obligation against desire."--Kirkus Reviews "Four neatly interlocking narratives build a riveting story about destiny [. . .] There's plenty of gore, romance, plot twists, and cliff-hangers, but readers will also find thoughtful challenges to racism, misogyny, and cruelty--plus a strong feminist element too." --Booklist "Readers willing to look at the larger ensemble cast, the characters' connections, and the subsequent political machinations may appreciate the world building and the disturbing but satisfying ending." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "[T]he flawed heroes, relatable villains, and creative storytelling will pull in readers. The threads weave together, culminating in an eagerly anticipated conclusion." --School Library Journal "McGinnis (The Female of the Species) creates a lush, oceanic fantasy world, writing Khosa as a smart young woman with far more to offer than just her body."--Publishers Weekly "In a mythical land near the sea, five young people struggle to avoid their destinies. . . . All relationships are complicated by rivalries, wars, and shifting alliances."--VOYA
About the Author
Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion.
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Given to the Sea had a lot of potential but for me personally, it fell short of delivering on that.
The author has built an entirely new world for this story, and while it is impressive and very well thought out, there is a lack of description and actual in-story world-building. As a reader you are essentially just thrown into this world with very little explanation of what the terms used mean and how the world works. I found it to be a little too disjointed. I couldn't fully immerse myself into the story because I couldn't picture the world properly or understand how it all works and how the different lands and races interlocked.
There are a lot of unexplained things and unanswered questions from the onset and though many of these do get answered, it isn't until much later in the book. I'm not talking about mysteries connected to the story here, I'm talking about simple details related to the world they live in. For example, in Witt’s first chapter (page 11) he explains how he sent his mother and young brothers off to their deaths in boats to the sea, yet we’re not told why. I'm expected to understand his struggle and why it is required of a man in his position, yet I'm given no explanation? I have to wait until much later in the book (around page 191) to learn that it is those of his kind who ‘can no longer be of use to their people’ who are sent willingly to die at sea. Although I now know why it happens, so many chapters have passed that I no longer care and it's not relevant anymore. Why didn't the author just explain that back on page 11 when it was first mentioned?
There are also a load of questions left unanswered. We learn straight away that the Given must go to the sea to appease it and prevent it from destroying the lands of Stille as it did some time ago (exactly how long isn't explained), and yet it’s never explained why. I mean, what does the sea care about a city? What were the motives for it destroying it and starting this strange ‘Given’ tradition in the first place? And what exactly does the sea gain from the sacrifice of this woman? The whole concept made literally no sense to me and the author didn't do much to explain.
My next gripe was the characters. We have four POV’s to follow, which is fine, I don't mind multiple POV’s if it’s done well (one of my favourite books – Six of Crows – has like six POV’s in it and it works fantastically), but I wasn't a huge fan of it here. I didn't really feel like the characters were strong enough to all have their own POV. Khosa was bland and devoid of personality. The only interesting thing about her was the issue with her being repulsed by touch (and even that had a boring reason behind it). Vincent was naïve and boring. I literally can't even remember if his age is mentioned but his thoughts and actions make me think he’s really young. He was just so…dull. Not an ounce of charm or wit to be found. Next up was Witt, where do I even start with him? He was easily the worst character. I just didn't even see the point in his POV. He seemed almost entirely devoid of feeling or independent thought. He’s just mindlessly following the traditions of his people and that made for pretty dull reading. Lastly we have Dara. Thank god for Dara. She is the shining light in this book. Fierce, brave, skilled, she was a jolt of colour among an otherwise bland cast and she easily suffers the most in the book.
I have to talk a little about the romance in this book too. There was far too much of it for my liking and I'm not even sure how to describe it, love triangle doesn't seem right, love square maybe?
We have Dara who loves Vincent (but that's forbidden because he’s a prince and she’s an Indiri, and she wants to breed with her own kind instead anyway…), Vincent loves Khosa (but that's also forbidden because Khosa is destined for death once she has a daughter), Khosa wants Donil (but that won't work because Dara won't allow a child with Indiri blood be sacrificed to the sea in the future) and then we have Donal – who I think does want Khosa but not enough to condemn her to death by impregnating her? Thank god Witt isn't allowed partners because I couldn't take any more. Worst of all this is that Vincent knows Khosa cares for Donil (and he for her) and yet, despite that Donil is a man who he has grown up with as a brother, he’s more than willing to come between them and try to keep them apart. There's so much romance and jealousy going on that it kind of detracted from the plot.
The plot was pretty basic under all this, Khosa needs to get pregnant before she can give herself to the sea and Witt is planning on invading Stille and killing everyone - that's it in a nutshell.
It builds up to this potentially huge battle at the end where either Vincent and the Stille, or Witt and the Pietra will fall but when the end finally came it was such a massive disappointment. The most anticlimactic ending I've read since the almost-battle at the end of Twilight! I won't say nothing happened, but it was as good as.
The ending killed this for me. I highly doubt I will be reading the sequel unless I see it extremely cheap somewhere.
As I said initially, a lot of potential and some interesting ideas but overall Given to the Sea was a huge let down for me. I rated it at 2.5 stars but didn't feel that it deserved to be rounded up, so have rounded down to 2 stars.
On the surface this book had everything, a gorgeous cover & an interesting blurb (including seemingly interesting characters) and it started off okay, the problem started though at about 40 pages in. Nothing was happening but still I read on, I got to about 60/70 pages and that’s when I started to realise that maybe the plot/content of the book won’t be mimicking the outside. But again, I kept reading thinking that maybe Given To The Sea was a slow starter. I finally gave up at 191 pages in when I realised that I was still waiting for something of importance to happen and it didn’t look likely that it would. Old me would’ve agonised over did not finish-ing a book so late in to it but new me? (the one that decided that this year I would stop reading books - no matter how far along I was - if they didn’t hold my interest) breathed a huge sigh of relief.
There was almost no character development/character building, I mean we were obviously introduced to the characters & given a vague sort-of background on them but that’s about it. You know when you read these kind of books and expect to be on the edge of your seat, waiting unbearably to see what happens? There was none of that here, and for me that was mostly down to the fact that I didn’t care for any of the characters or what happens to them except Gammal, and even his death was brushed over. You’d think Vincent would mourn the death of his grandfather but nope, it was business as usual for him a day later. In fact not even a day, this is what Vincent was doing/thinking even though his grandfather had died:
"Her eyes, skin, hair—everything that has always been Dara—comes together in a burning moment in which I want her so badly I would take her there on the blood-slicked grass, among the dead, with her brother watching."
That was definitely a what the heck?! Kinda moment for me, I mean… Ewww! Your grandfather’s dead, so are half your people but this is what your concerned with?
That scenes mentioned a few chapters later… Well, actually, come to think of it, not really, Vincent mentions to Dara that he feels something for her ever since that day and she alludes to the fact that it was probably the magic she’d been chanelling that day. You’re never told outright though that, that was what it was. and from then on I was just done. I gave up a few pages after that.
At first glance Given To The Sea looked like it was going to be a fantastic book, what let it down for me was the plot, the way it was written. To be honest it was just a huge mess and a huge let down.
I quite liked Khosa, Vincent, Dara and Donil but I found Dara's chapters a bit redundant, and Witt's downright boring. Maybe this book would have been better suited to all third person or just a couple of perspectives? I just found them too much and it stilted the story.
I loved the cats (they should have been featured more!) and the idea that the sea was the threat to the city of Stille. It picked up near the end with most of the action occurring quite quickly. Suddenly two people aren't together then they have moved on to something significant very swiftly! The pace was too slow then way too fast and it just didn't sit well with me and I probably won't be getting the sequel.
A good read if you like the language of classics due to its vibe in this book or are looking for a fantasy read that's quite unique!
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