Review: Given by the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

May Contain Spoilers

Well.  Hmmmm.  I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  It’s grim and dark, featuring a protagonist doomed to die for the good of her people.  There were four POVs, which I think was a bit excessive for the length of the book, and I thought that Dara and Witt’s chapters weren’t really needed.  Though, honestly, that opinion might be because I didn’t really care for either character.

Khosa is descended from a line of women who have all given their lives to the sea to keep the water where it belongs: in the sea and not swallowing up the land and lives of the good people of Stille.  When the army from Pietra descends upon the small village where she is being raised, she runs away to the capital, where, confronted with the sea, she is overcome with the compulsion to merrily dance into the raging waves.  Saved against her will by Vincent, the prince, because she hasn’t produced a daughter to replace  herself yet, she is hailed as a hero and taken to the castle.  Once there, she spends her days avoiding choosing a mate, instead reading history texts in the massive library.

Yes, this is about a sacrificial lamb who accepts her impending doom – sort of. While she whiles away time in the library, Vincent and his adopted siblings Dara and Donil, the last members of a wiped out race, worry about the arrival of the army from Pietra.  Stille is a peaceful nation, with plenty of farmland for crops to feed the ever growing, and aging, population.  Witt, the leader of Pietra, is a young man raised to be completely emotionless.  His duty is to expand the ever shrinking lands of Pietra, where the people won’t farm because it’s a task beneath them. They rely on fishing to feed their people, but the catch has been steadily decreasing.  His people, once they are deemed unproductive, are set out to sea in a tiny boat to feed the sea monsters.  Yeah, this is an uplifting read.

I guess I was enthralled by the weirdness of this world.  You have one kingdom that cheerfully gives up each generation of a certain line of women to drown in the sea to save their own hides, and you have another kingdom that is warlike and feeds its elderly and infirm to the sea monsters.  You have a king quietly endorsing the violent rape of a young woman who is going to die to save your not so worthy life, and a leader who would prefer another way of doing things, but can’t because of tradition and the knowledge that he will be fed to the sea monsters if he attempts to change things too much.  So it’s off to war against those soft neighbors in Stille, who will be as easy as sheep to overcome.

I found parts of this novel intriguing, and others pointless, and what is up with Dara and Donil except to create conflict between Vincent and Khosa?  Khosa can’t bear to be touched, yet she yearns for Donil’s caresses.  Minor spoiler – Dara’s magic is death, and Donil’s is life, and I didn’t see the need for either one.

While I enjoyed Given to the Sea overall, I’m not sure if I’ll jump onboard with the sequel.  I’m not dying to learn what happens next, and wish instead that the novel had been the end of the story.

Grade: 3.5Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book

Kings and Queens rise and fall, loyalties collide, and romance blooms in a world where the sea is rising—and cannot be escaped.
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 dancean 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.