Given to the Sea: Review
Well, friends, there's just no other way to say it. Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis was a mind-numbingly awful read, and I don't say that lightly. You know that I give books their due, out of respect for the author, and that's the only reason why I rate this book 2/5 stars instead of just one. Read on for why I don't think this book needs to be very high on your reading list. Warning, there are some spoilers (because I just can't hold myself back with this one).
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.
In the summary alone, we are introduced to five supposedly distinct characters in the span of five paragraphs. The book, much like this summary, tugs us in too many directions. After about halfway through the book, I realized that I really, really didn't like it. I didn't care for any of the characters. They were all extremely flat, one-dimensional, and all acted like they had a stick up their butts, no matter the humor that McGinnis tried to inject into the dialogue.
The thing that ticked me off the most was how resigned to their fates every character seemed to be. Khosa spends the entire book expecting to die. She is not a main character to aspire to. Vincent spends the entire book thinking about bedding Khosa, or Dara. Dara spends the entire book grappling between bedding Vincent and her duty to her nearly-extinct race. Donil spends the entire book thinking about bedding Khosa. Do you see what I mean? The characters were entirely reduced to their romantic/sexual desires.
Khosa, the Given, was objectified on every other page. She was a piece of meat, a tribute, a fine beauty to be sacrificed. A woman who needed to be bedded and bred before the kingdom could send her to the sea, to ensure that her bloodline was preserved in a newborn Given. There is an attempted rape scene, but plenty mentions of the act. And I can't count how many times "she must be bred" or "she has not bred yet," was said about Khosa.
I understand that McGinnis was perhaps trying to show us the patriarchal and morally ambiguous nature of the Stillean kingdom through the treatment of their women. But there was no payoff. It was one vulgar line after another, without any lessons served or any of these women vindicated by their own means.
This was a fine fantasy idea. In fact, I was really excited to read Given to the Sea when I first read the summary months ago at its release. But the execution was just horrible. The love square left a bad taste in my mouth, the political histories of the kingdoms weren't fully fleshed out, and the characters were all so dry. The prose was overly wordy, the conflict was barely that, and the resolution so convenient that I may have actually rolled my eyes on the train.
But, seeing as this is the first of a duology, I choose to give McGinnis the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Maybe I let my bias against the objectification and demeaning of women get in the way of appreciating the book. So hey, if you're ok with that, give Given to the Sea a try! But if you're looking for a wholesome fantasy novel with a slow burn love triangle, mysterious demons in the sea, and strong protagonist, look elsewhere. Khosa has no spine, and unfortunately, neither does this book.
I rate Given to the Sea 2/5 stars.