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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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Top customer reviews
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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
If you've read anything else by Mindy McGinnis, you know that she writes about social issues. I was surprised by how much of that carried over into her fantasy world. Here, she shows a flawed society full of sexism, racism, and ableism that our main characters have to face. There were some moments I didn't enjoy reading, some moments that felt very empowering, and some moments I don't know what I thought about them. (Specifically, I have conflicted feelings on how the ableism was portrayed. Like maybe it wasn't challenged enough, but this isn't something I know much about, admittedly.)
I've seen several reviews saying the world-building was bad or confusing and so I want to address that. I read a lot of fantasy and I didn't find this world confusing. Maybe you will, we're all different, but don't let that be the thing that scares you away from this book. I actually remember stopping at one point and thinking to myself: "wow, this was easy to get into for a fantasy world," so try it for yourself and see. It's a political fantasy and is a mostly non-magical world. It's more reminiscent of Game of Thrones than YA fae series, so know your preferences. Lots of adult themes. I've been saying it forever, Mindy writes adult books that masquerade as YA.
I enjoyed this world with its threatening sea and different nations with a tangled history. One thing I think would have GREATLY benefited the book though would have been the inclusion of a map! Maps not only show you the land, but they give you an easy reference for all of the nations and groups involved. There are about 4 groups involved in this story, but some of them merged and in the first half of the book I kept forgetting about one of them.
There are four POVs. Two of them are first person, and two are third person. I had a really easy time with the first person narratives (Khosa and Vincent) and blew through them. But then I would get to one of Witt's chapters and just get bored. I really did not enjoy his POV, but I do see why it was important. We needed to see his side to see how things came together. Dara was the other POV and while I enjoyed her character, her POV felt a bit useless since she's already so present in Vincent's chapters. I think hers could have been cut out, but have a hunch that something will happen in book 2 that we needed to have her POV for, though. But I admit, some of the POVs are less interesting than the others.
I mostly liked the characters. Khosa is touch averse and she also spends most of her time in a library. There is a love square involved and two of the characters that like each other grew up together as adopted siblings and I am not shipping that. Nope, sorry.
As for the writing, I've read all of Mindy's books and I wouldn't exactly call her the most lyrical writer, but the imagery in Given to the Sea was so vivid for me! I felt like I had the perfect image in my head for every single scene, and that is very rare for me! She paints the picture without flowery writing (which you may have learned from my past reviews is VERY hit-or-miss for me) so this was just a writing style that really worked for me and sucked me in.
Also, I thought the plot and story arc were solid. It could work as a standalone, but there is room for more.
Overall, I enjoyed the world and characters, but I have definitely preferred some of Mindy's other books. I will be reading the sequel though!
I absolutely loved this book's setting. McGinnis has created a vivid, beautifully haunting world. It's merciless, and brutal, yet there's something about it that pulls you into it, and has you rooting for those who are trying to change the course of their fate. Given to the Sea is book that centers on the sea, and the land that surrounds it's borders. It's a story about the people who live within the borders, all of whom will do what ever it takes to protect their people, and those chosen by the sea, called The Given.
Character wise, I liked that this book was told from 4 different points of views. Each of their stories are deeply embedded with each other's. Each character has a pivotal role in the story. I enjoyed reading each of their points of views. My favorite characters in the story however, were Donil and Dara, the misfits of the story. I also liked Vincent, the reluctant heir to the throne, and then there's Witt, the brutal leader of the Pietran people. Next is Khosa, the Given. While I didn't connect to one particular character, I liked that this story was written in such a way that not having a character connection didn't effect it.
There are so many elements to this book that I enjoyed. Those outweighed some of the smaller issues I had with the book. It wasn't hard for me to get sucked into this story. McGinnis's storytelling and world building are my favorite elements to this story. However, toward the middle of the book I found myself not being as interested with story, and I'm not really sure why that was. However, McGinnis threw in a few surprises and a strong finish that has me anxiously awaiting the next book's release. I need some more answers.
Given To The Sea is a fascinating fantasy. I loved how the element of the sea is a character all it's own, controlling and ruling all that Khosa and those who live around it's borders do. I really enjoyed the way this story was told. I love the world building, the unpredictable story line, and the book's strong finish. This is unlike anything I've read before. Along with the story, this cover is one I absolutely love!