Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis, Putnam, 2017. ISBN: 9780399544613. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Set in a most unusual world, with a mythology/prophecy that dooms a chosen child to grow into a woman, bear a girl child and then drown herself with everyone in the realm knowing that the same fate will be repeated. This is Khosa’s reality. Her mother effectively set her up by getting impregnated by an unusual soul, something Khosa doesn’t learn until well into the story. That choice complicated her life and imperiled her ability to fulfill her destiny. Her somewhat sheltered life is exploded when the shepherd village where she’s being raised is overrun by the Pietra, a warlike clan who are slowly starving. She flees, arriving bloody-footed at the gates of the castle.
Then there are Dara and Donil, last surviving members of the Indiri who were adopted by the queen of the major race on the island where everything takes place. Add in a growing, but extremely confusing attraction to Khosa by Vincent, prince of the kingdom, and the emotional and political entanglements in the story are quite something.
There’s also the question of whether the prophecy surrounding the Given, those women destined to give themselves to the sea, is accurate, or if those women have been victims of coincidence. This tale, told in alternating viewpoints from Vincent, Khosa, Dara and Donil, as well as Witt, the leader of the Pietra, is full of dark and violent events and actions, but is nevertheless riveting. Fragments of truth and of what happened in ages past trickle down as all the players march toward an ending that leaves almost everyone in a place that is sad or bleak.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, nor for those who are looking for a casual fantasy read. It’s good, but perhaps a bit too ambitious.