Given to the Sea was one of the more eagerly-anticipated novels coming ’round this year. I remember catching glimpses of it on Goodreads; the cover is beautiful, and you know of my love affair with covers. Although I really should learn to stop hoping for a good story based off of a cover. Mindy McGinnis, the author, is known for her Not a Drop to Drink series, which I tried reading but couldn’t get very far into. I thought I might try GttS because it’s been a while since her debut, and authors tend to get better as they gain experience.
This book is confusing. I’m pretty good at following alternating points of view; Streams of Babel had the same format, and it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Code Name Verity did too, though it didn’t switch characters so abruptly. My problem with Given to the Sea is that the problems in its world, and the characters that play a part in the story, aren’t introduced to us at all. Instead, we’re thrust right into the middle of things. The book begins with Khosa, who gives us a spiel about the role of the Given and how dangerous the sea is, but after that there are no more introductions. All of these random people show up and it’s like you’re already supposed to know who everyone is. Madda, the seer, Prince Varrick, the philandering noble, Donil, the Indiri twin, Milda, the baker’s daughter, like who are all these people and why am I supposed to care about them?
Everything in this book revolves around sex and pregnancy. You wouldn’t think so, but seriously: the main problem in the story seems to be that Khosa has not yet gotten herself pregnant, which means that she can’t be sacrificed to the sea because she has no heir who will be sacrificed ages afterwards. There was some minor character who lasted for a few chapters– Khosa’s friend, who offers to impregnate her, and has already done so with two other village girls. Apparently sex is a very casual thing in this world. Then there’s Prince Varrick, who can’t keep his pants on, and Prince Vincent, who likes to pretend that he is a “normal boy” by bedding the baker’s daughter every now and then. The Pietran soldiers cannot stop making dirty jokes. Then there’s Dara, the Indiri girl, who wants to find an Indiri man that she can make Indiri children with. Do you see what I mean? They talk about sex constantly. This is all in the first twelve chapters. It seems like not all– but many characters’ goals revolve entirely around reproduction. Literally anything that Khosa was involved in was tangentially related to her trying to find a man to get pregnant by.
There’s a lot of dialogue. There were entire passages, pages, that were just dialogue, and that can be horribly tedious to read. Most of this book was difficult because I was either trying to figure out which character was speaking, or why what they were talking about mattered to the plot, or what they were even talking about in the first place.
I lasted for twelve chapters but each one felt more boring than the first. I hate to be harsh, really and truly, but this book just didn’t catch my attention. There were too many unnecessary characters, and those introduced to us in the beginning weren’t beguiling enough to keep me reading. Khosa is beautiful. Dara is fierce. Vincent is reluctant. Donil is a joker. Then there’s the mysterious Witt, who is a killer. Witt never even interacts with the other characters. I don’t even know why he’s in this story. I really don’t understand what’s going on, or why all of these things that are happening, are happening (like some war?? That a neighboring kingdom or something? Is waging? But there’s no explanation as to why).
Also, from what I can garner by skimming through the next few chapters… everyone is falling in love with everyone. Vincent likes Khosa. Dara likes Vincent. Vincent likes Dara. Khosa likes Dolin. Dolin likes Khosa. What the heck. No love triangles for me, thanks. Actually this is even worse because it’s like a love circle? Whatever it is, I’m done.