Khosa is the Given, born only to give birth to the next Given and then dance into the sea to prevent her country from being swallowed by a giant wave. But Khosa can’t bear the touch of anyone and when she has to flee her home far away from the sea she ends up at the royal court. Here she meets Vincent, son of the crown prince and destined to rule one day, and Dara and Donil, the last of the Indiri, a people closely connected to nature.
But life at court in Stille is about to be interrupted, because the Pietra are invading and they have fearsome allies.
I wanted to like this book because it did sound intriguing, but sadly we can’t always get what we want and the only reason I managed to finish it was pure, unadulterated hate. I’d try to keep this spoiler free but I don’t think I can so consider yourselves warned.
Basically this book was a mess. It started with the main character, Khosa, and it ended with pretty much everything.
There’s three things you have to know about Khosa:
- The only meaning of her life is giving birth to a child and to dance into the sea afterwards
- She’s touch-adverse, which in her case means that she literally cannot bear the touch of another human being
- She is obsessed with the Indiri people
Let’s start with point 1 and work our way down the list. First of all, I’m not a huge fan of the whole “destined to die to save her people” trope, especially executed the way it is done in Given to the Sea. You’d think a person who supposedly is going to save your entire country from drowning would be treated accordingly, and you can definitely see that happening with anyone who isn’t part of the royal household. But “normal” people never get to see Khosa, so all we get to hear about her is how problematic it is that she hasn’t “bred” yet and that someone should just get her pregnant. At the same time I’m a little wary of the author’s use of Huntington’s Disease as an inspiration. I can see how this fantasy world would make the connection between Khosa’s dancing and being fated to die but also… why? (It’s not showing it in a novel which bothers me, but the way it’s contextualised. Just to make that clear.)
Secondly, she is extremely touch-adverse. Obviously there is nothing wrong with that. The thing I do have a problem with is that this is only true as long as we’re talking about anyone who isn’t Indiri. Now this connects with point 3 on the list above, because as it turns out Khosa is not only obsessed with the Indiri, but also has no problem with touching them and is very attracted to Donil. This just stinks of sexual fetishisation.
But enough of Khosa, because as the book goes along we also learn more about the world it is set in and things do not get better. It starts with your typical “women have no power” story and goes on with your “average” racism, xenophobia and ableism, because of course it does. Indiri are hated by everyone because they have powers that connect them to nature, Pietrans and Stillans hate each other because they’re two countries on the same piece of land in the ocean so of course they do, and then there’s the Feneen.
What happens is that every child that is born “abnormally” (read: disabled) is left out to die, because clearly that’s all disabled people are good for. The Feneen are made up of all these children. Everyone hates the Feneen and thinks they are abominations and shouldn’t be allowed to live or something. Peachy.
Now to two specific incidents where the book just completely lost me. The following two paragraphs include discussions of rape and animal cruelty, if you only want to read my conclusion, rating and the like feel free to skip ahead to the last paragraph.
The first incident I want to discuss is a rape scene. Essentially Khosa tries to leave the castle with the help of a scribe, who tries to rape her in the dairy storage room. To be honest I can’t remember if he succeeded. But either way this scene serves literally no purpose other than establishing Vincent’s father as a grade A asshole, which the book has already made abundantly clear at that point. The story would have worked perfectly well without anyone trying to rape anyone else so I have to ask: Why the hell was it in there? Rape is not a plot device, nor should it be. I thought we already had that discussion, but clearly we need to have it again.
The second incident is an attack by the Feneen on Stille. At this point the Feneen have tried to become Stille’s allies but failed so now they want to become the allies of the Pietrans. So they attack Stille. To do this they sew people onto the backs of giant cats. the process involves drugging the cats and when they wake up they suddenly have a person sewn to their back. Obviously this is mostly just bad because they use it to attack Stille. As a human being and as a cat owner I am disgusted just thinking about this.
If you haven’t read this book yet, please don’t waste your time with it. If you have bought it already chuck it into a dark corner where you’ll never find it again or just chuck it into the next bin. If you haven’t bought it yet, don’t. There’s a lot of better books to spend your money on.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (1 Star)
Publication Date: 11 April 2017
Publisher: Putnam’s Childrens
Page Count: 352
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Everyone has a place.
Khosa was born to be fed to the sea, to prevent the kind of wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. She can’t be sacrificed until she produces an heir, but human touch repulses her…except for the touch of the Indiri.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race with magic that’s seductive—a force of nature—but dwindling since the Pietra slaughtered their people.
Witt leads the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching on the Kingdom of Stille. The stone shores of Witt’s kingdom harbor a secret threat, and to ensure the survival of his people, he’s prepared to conquer every speck of Stille’s soil.
Vincent stands to inherit the throne of Stille, but has no wife to share it with. When the beautiful and mysterious Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows that his father will stop at nothing to make sure she fulfills her duty. Torn between protecting his kingdom and protecting the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is soon at odds with his heart.
While royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the Indiri struggle to survive, the rising sea calls for its Given, and Khosa is destined to answer.