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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Given to the Sea: Given Duet Book 1" by Mindy McGinnis (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Mindy McGinnis' Website Here

OVERVIEW: Everyone has a place.

Khosa was born to be fed to the sea, to prevent the kind of wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. She can’t be sacrificed until she produces an heir, but human touch repulses her…except for the touch of the Indiri.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race with magic that’s seductive—a force of nature—but dwindling since the Pietra slaughtered their people.

Witt leads the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching on the Kingdom of Stille. The stone shores of Witt’s kingdom harbor a secret threat, and to ensure the survival of his people, he’s prepared to conquer every speck of Stille’s soil.

Vincent stands to inherit the throne of Stille, but has no wife to share it with. When the beautiful and mysterious Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows that his father will stop at nothing to make sure she fulfills her duty. Torn between protecting his kingdom and protecting the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is soon at odds with his heart.

While royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the Indiri struggle to survive, the rising sea calls for its Given, and Khosa is destined to answer

FORMAT: Given to the Sea is the first book in the Given Duet. It is a YA fantasy told from 4 different POVs. It stands at 352 pages and  was published April 11, 2017 by Putnam's Children's.

ANALYSIS: When reading the summary for Given to the Sea, it is clear that this novel has a lot of potential. On the surface, it has all the elements people look for in a good, solid YA fantasy – an evil lurking around, a few people who are the last of an ancient civilization, and a royal who isn't super thrilled to be inheriting the throne. Unfortunately, Given to the Sea is one of those novels where looks (and summary) can be deceiving.

First and foremost, Given to the Sea is essentially a novel about a young girl who has been raised from birth to be a sacrifice to the sea. Before she can be sacrificed to the sea – the novel calls it 'dancing' but it is essentially an unwilling human sacrifice that uses a brainwashed child – she has to give birth to a baby girl so THAT baby girl can be sacrificed when she is older. It doesn't matter who fathers this baby girl, it doesn't matter if she is raped/forced/enslaved/held at knife point or if she does so willingly. Why is this important? I will explain.

The entire novel, and I mean the entire novel, focuses on this individuals need to breed. Entire conversations surround whether or not the girl has had sex, why she won't breed, who she could possibly breed with, and how time is running out and she should either breed now or be forced (yes raped) so she can do her duty to the country.

People are so focused on this girl's need to breed and lack of breeding skills that even people who shouldn't be worried about her not having a child are worried and obsessively thinking about it. For example, if the girl is walking around and a stranger came up to her, the first thing they would say would be "Are you pregnant?".

I understand this is far from the first book to have a plot element where women are objects used for breeding purposes. However, most books have a plot element surrounding it that makes this understandable. Given to the Sea came across as having a huge obsession with this breeding concept and pushed any chance of a real, solid plot to the background.

When the novel wasn't focused on Khosa's need to breed, it talked a lot about sex. There were comments thrown in about sexual encounters, how big some of the male genitalia was (or in some cases magical), how fertile some men were and getting girls pregnant right and left, and how women were pregnant and/or 'going their' job.

Every time there was some remote chance the book might be on track to create a plot or start to pick up to the point it might be good, the writing would draw back to sex, breeding, pregnant women, and other topics of that matter. It was a bit frustrating.

I do think it needs to be pointed out that a good portion of this novel tried to justify rape. There is a point in the novel where the girl didn't want to 'have relations' with anyone. The king puts out a bounty on her head and offers to reward whatever man gets her pregnant 'by any means'. In fact, he even tells them to rape her. If that wasn't enough, he then encourages his son to do so or to allow someone else to do it.

Apart from the main focus on breeding and sex, there were other elements that contributed to this novel's disappointing outcome. First, was the very confusing nature of the narrative. The novel is written using 4 different POV. Two of the POVs are told in first person and two are told in third person. There isn't really an explanation for this and it made for a clunky, unsmooth read as things jumped rapidly from person to person.

Four POVs are hard to develop and really maintain. The chapters were extremely short which prevented readers from connecting with the characters and it just felt like the novel jumped around too much to really gain momentum and become a good novel.

I will say that one of the POVs, Witt, seemed completely unnecessary. Witt's chapters are put into the novel to show an oncoming battle/takeover from another country. However, the novel focused mostly on breeding/sea sacrifices so these marching army scenes seemed rather random. I would have preferred these chapters taken out and more focus given to developing other characters.

In addition to the four POV, there was this huge romantic mishmash going on. It wasn't a love triangle, it was more of a love blob of sorts. I have put up a semi-drawn (poorly drawn) chart to show some of the romances going on and how it just kept growing and growing and growing.

A brief look at the chart includes the following:

  • Khosa had some feeling for an old friend from her hometown, but she quickly started to fall in love with Vincent but she also felt strongly for Donil
  • Donil has feelings for Khosa but doesn't know if its ok to express it. So he spends his time bedding a random maid (and other girls) and flirting with any girl he can see.
  • Dara is Donil's sister. She has feelings for Vincent, but she thinks Vincent doesn't like her. She won't act on them in case there is 1 remaining male (besides her brother) from her race. She is also upset that Donil might have feelings for Khosa
  • Vincent has feelings for both Khosa and Dara, but he is afraid that won't be good enough. So he takes his sexual urges out on a random girl in the village who he likes a lot. But that girl goes off and marries someone else.

From the chart, you can see it was just a mess. If someone developed feelings for someone else, they also developed them for another characters and then another one on top of that. It was so messy and lacked a clear direction.

Other aspects of the novel that seemed off included the world building, the background of the country, and the writing. The writing came off as very clunky and just unorganized. A particular quote that stuck out to me (and I feel represents the overall tone of the novel) is as follows –

"I smack the table, tears rising to my ears" p. 206 
(A scene where the character is extremely upset and frustrated)

I have tried many times to justify this line. Maybe the character threw her head down and was crying? But then how did the tears move up instead of down? The only thing I could eventually come up with is she had weeping ears.

Upon completing Given to the Sea, it is clear that this book could have been great. It had a different concept to it in some aspects and it had so much potential. Unfortunately, due to clunky world building, a confusing narrative, a focus on anything but the plot, and the love hexagon/square/whatever shape thingy made this book a huge disappointment.


Becky G said...

I love the chart! Although I don't know that I can follow such a chart while reading. Might be good though. I am reading a quick fast paced book by Billy Adler Jr. It's called No Time To Say Goodbye, it's no book that needs a chart LOL, but I love it nonetheless!


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