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I Belong

Review: Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

GivenToTheSeaTitle: Given to the Sea

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Given Duet (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0399544615 (Penguin Teen)

ISBN-13: 9780399544613 (Penguin Teen)

Reviewed by: Tara


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.

Quick & Dirty: Politics, war between kingdoms, complicated relationships, and tradition-dictated sacrifices to the sea.

Opening Sentence: It is in my blood. It is in my bone. It is in my brain.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I went into this book knowing nothing about it except for the synopsis. While it does have some flaws, I ended up enjoying this one. I was very intrigued by the ending and can’t wait to see how the story develops in the sequel.

The politics in this book were very interesting – rather than describing what took place during the meetings or how the king rules, the focus was on what it means to rule. Witt’s story was the one that captivated me. A ruthless leader who has more of a heart than he reveals, I saw how worry and love for his people weighed on him and informed every decision he made. The contrast between Witt, a leader who has to fight for the survival of his people, and Gammal, king of a prosperous and complacent people, was stark. I hope that the Pietra will play more of a role in the next book since we’ve only had glimpses of them so far. Additionally, I really enjoyed that the idea of memory versus fact and the role of myths is explored in this book, particularly toward the end of the book. Overall, I was left with a lot of questions about the world and its history, which will hopefully be answered in book two.

I had a love/hate relationship with the multiple points of view. On one hand, I felt that having so many offered a more in-depth view of the world than the reader would have otherwise gotten. Through Witt’s POV, both the Pietra and Feneen are humanized, portrayed as societies who have adapated to their circumstances. Through Dara and Donil, the reader learns the story of the Indiri and sees how they are treated. However, the POVs of too many characters were centered around the Stillean castle. Since the POV changed every chapter, it was jarring to experience an event with one character and then be thrown into another character’s life. I would have preferred longer with each character but towards the end I began to see that the author had included all of them because of the role each character will play in book two. Since the story was split up between so many characters, it was a very fast paced book with a lot of action. The ending was a little bit too deus ex machina for my taste but I’m hopeful that more answers/world development will come in the sequel.

Onto the very complicated love square. Usually I’m not a fan of love triangles (let alone anything more complex) but the author wove such an artful and tangled web of love, desire, and family that I didn’t mind as much as usual. Khosa was a unique character, unable to stand the touch of any human except for one (who is the one man she can’t be with because of his race). I loved how sweet her scenes with Donil were, although I would have liked to see more depth to their relationship. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of how Dara was treated by Vincent. There were many better ways of having Vincent express his preference for Khosa than having him lust after Dara and then forget about her in an instant. Even if magic was involved, Vincent should have treated his childhood friend better than that.

There is a focus on sexual relations in this book that somewhat surprised me. Many of the male characters talk about their conquests and how they have kept girls to satisfy their needs. Additionally, Khosa’s role in life as the Given is to produce a child and then sacrifice herself to the sea (which leads to some dangerous situations after she refuses to produce a child). While I wish that the female characters had been stronger and better developed overall, I do respect that the author only allowed them agency and development within the constraints of the world she had built.

I enjoyed this book and am definitely planning on reading the sequel. Given to the Sea was definitely setting up the game and the players for book two and I can’t wait to see where the author takes this story next. I would recommend to the young adult reader who enjoys both romance and royal schemes.

Notable Scene:

She breaks out of the trees like a wraith, her tattered dress barely keeping her decent as she spins, her body exultant in its throes as she clears the beach, her face a twisted display. I cannot tell if she is beautiful or horrific, and it does not matter for I know who she is in the second that all the trapmen instinctively take a knee to bear witness to the dance.

To see a Given dance is a blessing and a comfort, assurance that the sea has taken this generation’s offering, her death solidifying our hold on life. Yet I cannot let it happen. Whether it is because she has not delivered a replacement yet, or because of the helpless terror I see, I do not know, but I run to intercept her. The beach fights me, sucking at my naked feet as I head for her, demanding the right to take what is being freely given.

Given Duet:

1. Given to the Sea

2. Given to the Earth (2018)


FTC Advisory: Putnam’s Childrens/Penguin provided me with a copy of Given to the Sea. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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