Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis


3 stars bumped up to 4 stars

A war is coming.

Khosa was born to be given to the sea to prevent the wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. Her mother birthed her to be destined for the same fate–to dance as the sea takes her and drowns her to save thousands of lives in Stille. Yet, she cannot stand the feel of human touch–except for that of the Indiri–and cannot be given until she births her own daughter.

Indiri Dara and Donil are the last of their native race after the Pietra slaughtered their people, and their magic is tied to the Earth. 

Witt is the leader of the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching to take over the Kingdom of Stille as well. His people’s harbor holds a secret threat and he must ensure the survival of his people by conquering every speck of Stille’s soil. 

Vincent is in line for the Stille throne, but requires a wife. He slowly falls in love with Khosa, but doesn’t try to take advantage of her, despite his father’s protests that she fulfill her duty.

A war is coming, but against who–man, nature, other forces–remains to be seen. The Pietrans march, the Indiri struggle, and the sea calls for the Given’s sacrifice.

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I have so many complex feelings for this book. Despite the unhelpfully average rating [note: when I wrote this part of the review, I initially had the book at 3 stars], I actually kind of liked it.

It’s good to preface with the fact that this is a very complex book.

There are so many dynamics happening at once and you’re thrust into it straight from the beginning. There’s Khosa’s relationship with the sea and her requirement to give birth; there’s the complexities of Witt’s own people’s culture and the struggles he deals with in leading them; there’s the love polygon between Khosa and Vincent and Donil and Dara and who knows who else; and there’s Dara’s own struggles with the lack of others of her race present.

So, like I said, this is a very complex book.

I, personally, understood every bit of it. But I know many other reviewers have mentioned that they’ve been extraordinarily confused after reading. I spent around 4 days reading it, which is a lot for me when I speed through a lot of books in a couple of hours. I really spent the time to digest the information and examine the dynamics and I found it to actually be worth it.

Because of this, I’d recommend you take your time with this book. It’s a whole lot to digest in only 300-something pages, and this could easily have been 700-something pages. I appreciate what McGinnis has done in condensing it.

You are thrust right into the action from the start of it, and it’s definitely something to be wary of. Take your time, absorb the little details, and don’t rush.

There are just so many themes in this novel and it’s been over a week and I’m still digesting.

For the basic aspects, I found it to be entertaining (this could be overshadowed by confusion in other readers) and well-paced and well-written and well-structured and well-developed (character & world wise). McGinnis is a good writer–we all know that.

It was a little funky with Khosa and Vincent being in first person and Dara/Donil and Witt being in third, but I soon adjusted to that.

I think what a lot of people struggled with was just the content in general.

There’s a huge focus on getting Khosa pregnant. I have a trigger warning that’s semi related to this (hover over this text), but it’s also a spoiler, so if you need it to be spoiled, then hover. If not, please continue your merry way. The focus on pregnancy really weirded some people out but I didn’t really blink twice about this.

What got me was how the entire world was almost portrayed as barbaric. It wasn’t explicit, but sometimes I felt like the narrative was slightly angled to emphasize how “Hey, sacrificing an innocent girl: not good” and I’m honestly still conflicted about this part because I don’t know if McGinnis was condoning this or not.

I still don’t know if I’m condoning this or not. I very much respect these fictional peoples’ beliefs, but I also feel like sacrificing people is no bueno. This has been on my mind for quite a while. I’m conflicted about how I’m supposed to look at these characters. Am I supposed to look at them as barbarians for doing this? They’re still people, but they’re also doing this rite that I don’t really condone. I can see it from their point of view: sacrifice one to save many, but I can also see it from the other point of view: sacrificing people is bad. So I’m left in this weirdly conflicted grey area, once again.

But I appreciate how McGinnis included this. It gives it this depth that I really enjoyed seeing in The Female of the Species and once again, in Given to the Sea. This book will keep me up at night as often as The Female of the Species has.

Moving on from this, there was also the tremendous amount of racism in this book against the Indiri and another group of people (a reject group), and I really enjoyed how McGinnis executed this without it feeling like The Black Witch. There’s a lot left to this plotline and I hope lots of grey issues come to us with this topic in the next book.

The one thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the love polygon. I was just generally apathetic to this plotline and I really didn’t care who ended up with who. I felt like it worked much better as a plot device (and oh, it makes things real twisty) rather than actual romance meant to entertain or provide wish gratification or whatever YA romance is supposed to do.

In the end, I think I ended up enjoying this book. I’m a tad confused, not with the plot, but with my own personal feelings about some of the content matter. It’s a pleasant confusion, though.

If you’re looking for something to entertain and for you to speed through, I wouldn’t recommend this book. But if you’re looking for something with topics that really make you think, even in a YA novel, I definitely would recommend you check this out! I did enjoy reading it, although my insides are all squishy contemplating everything that happened.

This is one of those rare cases where I’ve bumped my rating up, not down, after writing a review. I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that this work is actually kind of genius, and I’ll be sticking with that until I think otherwise. I will definitely read Given to the Earth when it comes out, as I’ll be anticipating where this story is going to go after that ending.

much love, vicky

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

One thought on “Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

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