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Khosa has been born to be given to the sea, as was her mother and her mother's mother and beyond, as a sacrifice to appease the brutal sea and prevent another wave like the one that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille hundreds of years ago. However, before she fulfills her purpose she must give birth to a female heir to follow in her footsteps in order to secure the kingdom's safety for generations to come. Unfortunately, Khosa can't withstand the touch of anyone except an Indiri. Siblings Dara and Donil are the last surviving Indiri, a magical people of the earth with special abilities, including the ability to see and relive the memories of their ancestors. The Pietra, led by Witt, slaughtered the rest of the Indiri several years ago and now they're coming to claim Stille for the survival of their own people. Vincent will one day inherit the Kingdom of Stille. His father, the prince, will do anything to ensure that Khosa does her duty to the Stillean people as their Given. Vincent knows he must do whatever it takes to make sure the kingdom prospers, but the more he actually gets to know this Given personally, the more he begins to question the traditions of his kingdom.
Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis was easily one of my most anticipated releases of 2017 and it really delivers on so many fronts. The author has written in multiple YA genres, but this is her first fantasy novel which is also the first of a duet. McGinnis has quickly become one of my favorite authors, so of course I'm glad to say that her first foray into fantasy really worked for me. In this novel, her world-building, her character development, and tackling of social issues stood out in particular to me. However, I will warn you right off the bat that while quite a bit happens I wouldn't consider this an action-packed book. Events travel at a slower pace here than in most YA fantasy, but it is definitely worth sticking around to see how everything comes to a head.
For me, the success of a second world fantasy often hinges on the author's world-building skills. The world of the Kingdom of Stille and its surroundings, from a vengeful sea to an unfriendly neighbor bent on war, is uniquely imagined and designed. Stille has a destructive history that they have to prevent from coming to pass again and again each generation. Even if that means a girl must be born and raised specifically to sacrifice to that vengeful sea. The world of the novel is a mostly non-magical one that focuses on the political machinations of those who have power, and to great effect. I do believe, however, that the book could definitely benefit from the inclusion of a map in order to better see the lay of the land and the sea.
Turning to our cast of characters, this story is told from four alternating perspectives - two in first person and the other two in third. Our first person POVs are Khosa, the Given, and Vincent, the grandson of the King and one day heir to the throne of Stille, while our third person POVs are Dara, one of the last two surviving Indiri, and Witt, the cold-blooded warlord and leader of Pietra. Of these four, I will say that I found myself most interested in Vincent's and Dara's chapters and they quickly became my two favorites of the novel. As much as I enjoyed getting to know Khosa and explore issues of personal and political autonomy in terms of her life and future, she is quite bland, a little too much so even though I know that that's how her character has been raised - to do her duty for her kingdom regardless of her own personal wants and needs. I will admit that it is great when we see her begin question her future and the horror and revulsion she feels at what she knows that the future holds for her. Anyway, while all perspectives are handled well I wouldn't say all of them are absolutely necessary, since the characters overlap quite a bit - Dara's, in particular, as her and Vincent's story are very close. Regardless of the necessity of her chapters, though, Dara quickly became a favorite and made me wish that Donil, her twin, also had POV chapters.
Overall, Mindy McGinnis's Given to the Sea is a great first foray into fantasy. If you're a fan of this author's work, this first in a two-part series is a must read. If you are also interested in mostly non-magical political fantasy that doesn't travel at a breakneck pace, but features excellent world-building and character development, this novel may be your cup of tea. I know I'm certainly looking forward to the second part of this duet and McGinnis's upcoming release, This Darkness Mine.
I read this novel from April 22 - 28, 2017 and my review is also on Goodreads.
I'm also giving away this book as a part of the April 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop - you can enter my giveaway (INT) here.