Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy—she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.
Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.
Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra—fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before—are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.
Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land—and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.
The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.
Praise for Given to the Sea:
"Star-crossed love is at the heart of this darkly vivid tale, woven with hypnotic prose and captivatingly intense characters [. . .] Readers will be hypnotized by their relationships as well as the allure of the created world in this first book of the Given duet."—Romantic Times
"[T]his book isn't just about love triangles (or squares): themes of duty and fate are thickly woven into the fabric of this tale as each character grapples with balancing moral obligation against desire."—Kirkus Reviews
"Four neatly interlocking narratives build a riveting story about destiny [. . .] There’s plenty of gore, romance, plot twists, and cliff-hangers, but readers will also find thoughtful challenges to racism, misogyny, and cruelty—plus a strong feminist element too."—Booklist
"Readers willing to look at the larger ensemble cast, the characters’ connections, and the subsequent political machinations may appreciate the world building and the disturbing but satisfying ending."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2017 Mindy McGinnis
GIVEN TO THE SEA
C H A P T E R 1
It is in my blood. It is in my bone. It is in my brain.
One day my body will betray me, dancing into the sea, my mind a passenger only. The water will close over my head and I will drown, my death bringing a reprieve for those who are not me. This is what I’ve been born and bred for. The food passing into my mouth, the clothes covering my body, every breath I draw—these are smaller offerings, each a promise that I will endure, bear my own cursed daughter, and then succumb.
How that will happen I do not know. My mother suffered the touch of another at least once, long enough to fulfill her duties and bring me about. I know it was badly done. I see it in the faces of my Keepers, these people who care for me without caring. I hear the small things in their voices. They worry I will not be pleasing to the sea, that my mother and her chosen mate created something less than perfect. I understand their concern, but cannot share it. Why should I care if the tides rise again, if I am only a corpse riding the waves?
To live aware of your own doom is no easy thing. I spend my days at lessons, my body fulfilling the expected duties, though my mind is elsewhere. The Keepers are worried that I have not prepared well, have not set my face in the appropriate response to their commands. “Happy,” for instance, is an emotion I cannot be expected to parade, but they tell me it is necessary. “Melancholy” I excel at.
My mother and grandmother had other lessons, ones to please at table and dancing. Proper chewing, proper speaking, proper walking— only expected, of course, when we are in control of our limbs. My lessons have taken a different course, my other instructors quietly dismissed once I learned all that was expected.
All except how to contort my stone face appropriately.
The Keepers have tried, their emotions chasing through their faces so quickly I can’t keep up, my own trying to mirror what I see. They say to me, “Pleased,” but look nothing like it themselves, and I am easily confused on this point. So I often retreat, my mind escaping the room where I learn to mimic emotion, returning itself to some well-ordered facts absorbed from a musty book, its scent still lingering on my fingers, a source of comfort.
Their pages follow me through the day, their words imprinted on my mind. I know the history of my land better than the Scribes, better than the royals who rule it. I can recite the names of my predecessors, from the woman who gave birth to me all the way to Medalli, one of the Three Sisters whom the sea gave back after the wave that took nearly all. Seaweed was pulled from their hair, their locks drying as they worked alongside other survivors to rebuild what had washed away, not knowing they would be taken again, the first of the Given.
The sea waited until the sisters had married and had children of their own before it called for them, the price of its leniency to the blood of their line. For the children went too, and their children after them, the first twitches of their childhood pulling them toward the water, the final coordinated movements driving them deep into the waves, the dance of death one their kingdom deemed the will of the sea. And so it continues. Their footprints in the sand not returning, my feet now itching to follow. Medalli’s line—mine—remains strong, the other two Sisters falling short, the last names in their column females who did not produce heirs, the ink that wrote them now faded with time.
I rub my fingers together, drawing the scent of the book pages from them as my male Keeper says, “Sad.” Sad I can perform, closing my eyes and picturing my name, Khosa, the ink slightly darker than my mother’s name before me, Sona.
“Don’t close your eyes,” he says.
I open them again to see my Keepers, their faces so easily read.
C H A P T E R 2
I’m sorry you have to wait, my lord.”
“Not a concern,” I answer the guard, but my eyes are on my hands, the clean nails freshly clipped, the smoothness of my palms interrupted by the lines that Madda insists hold my future.
In any kingdom other than Stille, the future of a prince wouldn’t need to be read in his hands. It would be clear in his actions, the preparations taken to ensure he sits the throne well, does his duty, leads his country. Somewhere else I would be wed already, the announcement of my own child eagerly anticipated, the girl I keep on the side politely excused, with her pockets lined for her trouble. Instead I sit outside the throne room at the age of seventeen, awaiting my turn to speak to King Gammal—my grandfather—healthy, hearty, capable. At his side, my father Prince Varrick, already gray and lined, but still sitting in the lower throne.
I shift on the wooden bench, and the trapman next to me slides farther away, the smell of sea salt rising from his clothes. “I’m sorry, my lord. Do you need more room?”
“More than enough room,” I insist, patting the space between us.
He’s quiet for a moment, and the lady on the bench next to ours fills the hall with the clicking of her wooden knitting needles. One foot rests casually on the ball of coarse wool to keep it from rolling away as she works. She’s assured, content. As a citizen of Stille, she is entitled to speak to the king, and her turn will come. Eventually.
I look back at my empty hands and the lines that Madda the Seer wrinkles her brow at. Her answers to my questions are always vague and muttered.
“Am I right to say my lord?” the trapman asks. “Is that what you’re called?”
The words it doesn’t matter are half formed in my throat, but I choke them back.
The woman’s needles continue to click. Her hands are gnarled and work-worn, but her color is good, and the hat she is knitting small. For a grandchild. Or great-grandchild. They are lucky to have her. I tell myself these things every day: Stille is fortunate. Stille is healthy. Stille is strong. Years of peace and prosperity mean that the old linger and the middle-aged flourish, while the young inherit only boredom and aimlessness.
“Just Vincent,” I say, finally answering the trapman’s question. “No title necessary.”
“You’re of royal blood,” the woman says, not glancing up from her work. “It should not be taken lightly.”
“No . . .” My voice fades away. I have no words to explain succinctly, only memories from my childhood when I was called the baby prince, and then the young prince, and now there’s a hesitation, a slight pause before acknowledging my rank. There is no name for the third in line, one whose hands will wither with age long before they hold the scepter. I’ve come to hate the blank space before my given name, the deferential glance of the servants as they search for a title that represents nothing. So I make it easier for them, and for myself.
“Just Vincent,” I reassert. The old woman makes a disapproving noise in her throat and keeps knitting. The trapman smiles at me, his teeth even, strong, and white in a face lined with wrinkles.
“I’m Agga.” He holds out a bent hand, gnarled from years of pulling in the crab traps, the lengthy ropes rubbing it raw. Even the trapmen don’t go into the water, letting the tides carry out the traps. His skin feels of age and the scars of work, years of absorbed salt water pressing back against the softness of my own hands.
“How is the sea, Agga?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “Eating the beach with hunger. We’ll be needing her that’s given to the sea, and soon.”
“I will pass that along,” I say. I don’t add that my voice doesn’t carry in the great hall, only echoes back into my ears.
“Here to do it myself,” Agga says, and I wonder if he followed my thought.
“I saw when the last one was given,” the woman says. “She danced beautifully.”
“They all have,” Agga says.
“But their faces, they do . . . twist,” the woman adds, her own mimicking the memory, a brief mask of horror that slides off easily as she counts her stitches.
“Do they want to go?” I ask.
Agga shrugs. “It’s their own feet taking them. No one in Stille makes them go. We’re not the Pietra, feeding sea monsters with the flesh of their aged.”
“No.” The woman shudders, dropping the first stitch since I’ve sat here. “We’re not the Pietra.”
There’s laughter in the throne room. It reverberates under the closed doors, my grandfather’s hearty one underscored by my father’s, which has never ceased to produce goose bumps on my skin, even in a lifetime of hearing it.
“I’m sorry you have to wait, my lord,” the guard says again.
“Not a concern,” I repeat, looking back at my hands, where lifelines extend forever, marching right off the palm.
Waiting is what I’m good at.
C H A P T E R 3
The twins move through the forest, their footfalls lost in the leaves, their shadows blending with the trees. Their hunting cloaks waft around them, bulky hoods resting on their shoulders. Donil hesitates a moment, his eyes catching something in the dying light of the setting sun. He steps purposely on a stick, the sharp snap gaining his sister’s attention. Dara comes to his side, her eyes not as trained at deciphering the forest floor.
“It passed through here, headed west,” she says, her voice pitched low. She pushes leaves aside with the end of her bow. “Recently?”
Donil smiles. “You were right to make that a question.”
“Not recently.” Dara stabs her bow into the ground. “Then why stop?”
“Because of that.” He indicates another sign, barely visible. Dara squats to the ground, eyes tight in concentration.
“This one is headed east . . .” Her fingertips trail in the impression. “Is it the same creature?”
“It is, judging by the size. I thought the farmer’s daughter was going to faint when she saw the print.”
Dara rises, leaning her cheek against her bow. “An animal with tracks we’ve never seen before raids a Stillean flock and flees into the woods. We follow it for days on Gammal’s orders, and now it’s changed direction. So I ask again—why did we stop?”
“Because of that,” Donil says, pointing at a third sign.
Dara doesn’t bother to look. “Save my breath and just tell me.”
“And waste my own?” Donil teases, but the set of his sister’s mouth tells him she’s nearing the end of her patience. “The third track points east again, and is fresh. Whatever this creature is, it passes through here often.”
“We’ll wait, then,” Dara says, pulling her hood forward and lying flat on the ground near the crisscrossing tracks. Donil does the same, his shoulder touching hers, their cloaks overlapping to share heat as the sun leaves the sky.
Dara exhales softly, a low hum, and the leaves that were softly drifting to the forest floor change direction. The twins hardly notice the first few settling on their backs, but as Dara continues her quiet call, the leaves layer on top of them, their slight weight a comfort that keeps them warm and hidden.
“You have your uses, even if you can’t track,” Donil says.
“You track it, I’ll kill it,” she shoots back.
“What then?” he asks. “That creature is huge; getting it back won’t be easy. And we’ve got a full day of travel in hot sun between us and Stille. The meat will spoil before we return.”
“No one is hungry in Stille,” Dara says, her low voice twisting the words to make it sound like a bad thing.
“Maybe in the city proper, but perhaps the trapmen—”
“The traps are always full.”
“How would you know that?”
“I listen when people talk.”
“Then why kill something for the sake of a few sheep? You said yourself the bellies in Stille won’t be empty without them.”
“Because Gammal asked us,” Dara says. “And because Vincent seemed concerned.”
“Vincent . . .” Donil says their childhood friend’s name quietly. “No matter how hard you try to please him, you’ll always be Indiri, and not fit to wed.”
“Asking me to kill something and asking me to marry him are two very different things.”
“They are,” Donil agrees. “I’m making sure you know that.”
“Put your teeth together and keep them that way.” She lashes out in irritation to punch his arm and dislodges half the leaves she’d called down to them. She swears in Indiri, a word that only they can understand. Dara hums again, but the sound is weaker now, and threaded with strain. The leaves that are falling drift toward them for a moment, then return to their natural course, the breeze stronger than the little magic Dara has left in her. “More will fall while we sleep. It’ll be enough to keep us from being seen,” Donil says, all teasing gone.
They lie quietly as night settles in the forest, the leaves falling of their own accord and not Dara’s will. Her breathing evens out as her temper settles, and Donil chooses his next words carefully.
“I had hoped you no longer thought of Vincent in that way.”
“I hope for that too, brother. But the only thing that will avert my eyes is one marked such as us.”
“So what will you do?”
“Jam your teeth down into your gullet if you don’t stop your hole. The way your mouth runs, you’ll have us both eaten by this thing we track, the last of the Indiri rotting in its dung heap.”
“At least we’ll be together.”
Dara gives him a dark look, the one that has kept stable boys and Stillean nobles alike from troubling her. But Donil’s smothered humor only vibrates through his body, spreading to her own until her smile is drawn out.
“I’ll keep first watch,” Dara says. “Get some sleep. Dream of women.”
“You’re confused, sister. They dream of me. And what is it you think of, if you ever rest easy?”
Dara’s mouth tightens, all traces of humor gone. “Revenge.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Is there a genre McGinnis cannot write well? I've yet to find it. Admittedly this wasn't my favorite of her books, but I did enjoy the eerie fantasy. I look forward to the sequel.
Oh, no. I could not happily get through this book. There was far too much switching between characters. This book probably should've only had two perspectives. During the different perspectives, it also went back and forth between first and third person, which was horribly jarring. Each chapter is maybe four pages long at best, so you don't really have time to settle into that voice before it changes again. The story didn't make very much sense and got worse as you went further along. This is clearly a rich and developed world that could be absolutely beautiful to read, but it felt that the author didn't build it for the readers. She knew the world, but we didn't get to. There was very little world building--we're just thrown in--so terms and customs are totally confusing. I definitely recommend you pass on this one, but pick up the author's other books. They are just wonderful.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis Book One of the Given series Publisher: Putnam's Childrens Publication Date: April 11, 2017 Rating: 2 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match. Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart. Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille. Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people. The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given. What I Liked: I've read four of McGinnis's books (this one being the fourth), and it's a shame to say that I really haven't enjoyed anything I've read. On the one hand, all of her books have been very well-written and so unique. On the other hand, all of her books (that I've read) have not been for me. And therein lies the distinction - her books just don't seem to be for me. I thought I'd give her books another shot because Given to the Sea is her first fantasy novel, and fantasy is my favorite genre. But not even my love of fantasy could save me. This book is told in four different points-of-view, though there are arguably five protagonists. Vincent is the prince of Stille and third in line for the throne. He doesn't want to become king, but he is destined to claim the throne in the future. Khosa is the Given, the female child who has been groomed since birth to choose a mate, bear a child, and then sacrifice herself to the Sea, to keep the sea calm and restful. Dara and Donil are the last Indiri, a race that is magical and ancient. They are adopted royal children, and they grew up with Vincent like brothers and sister. And finally, Witt, the Lithos, deadly leader of the Pietra. The Pietra rise against Stille, and look to destroy them as they also destroyed the Indiri. Strange events are occurring - the Given washes up on the shores of Stille, but she is not pregnant nor did she have a child. The sea levels are rising, though it may not be due to the lack of Given. And the Pietra are coming for the people of Stille, who are wholly unprepared for war. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)