Given to the Sea caught my eye as soon as I saw it on Goodreads. It just has such a wonderful cover--like the girl is standing on one of those lighthouses that get hit by 50-foot waves all the time, where the keepers live in them totally isolated from the rest of the world. And the girl herself...it's like she's a ghost. And then there was the premise: of a girl who is supposed to be sacrificed to the sea in order to keep a killer wave at bay, but must have a child first to replace her, but who hates to be touched. And the prince who wants to save his kingdom but doesn't want to be king, the twins who are the last survivors of their race. It was all the makings of a great fantasy.
Ultimately, however, I didn't find this too intriguing. The plot largely revolves around two pieces. First, heroine Khosa needs to have a child before she can be sacrificed and everyone wants to get her pregnant. (Why? So their kid can die? Totally weird.) Second, Witt, the leader of the group called the Pietra, wants to invade Stille, the country that Khosa and the other characters call home, and basically kill all of its people. Meanwhile it seems like the waters that surround their island(?) are rising even without a wave to threaten destruction. But while all of this might have had promise, ultimately what it boils down to is a lot of angsting about Khosa not wanting to have sex while everyone wants to have sex with her, and Dara (one of the twins) angsting that everyone who she wants to like her is busy wanting to have sex with Khosa, and Witt planning an invasion. The drama is very much of the teen variety without being at all intriguing, and I found myself continually waiting for something to happen. The climax of the book ultimately has little to do with the actions of the main characters, of which there were too many--if there had been fewer, maybe McGinnis could have worked a bit more "happening" into the book.
Instead, I found myself wondering about a few worldbuilding things that aren't explained. There's another group floating around in this book, the Feneen, which consists mostly of people with horrible deformities that were left out at birth and then adopted by other members of the group. What is happening to the Pietra and the Stilleans that is causing them to have so many children with so many birth defects? Meanwhile, the people of Stille who aren't deformed are living to be really old without apparently looking at it. What's going on here? And what's causing the waves? Dara and Donil seem to have magic here but no one else really does, except maybe Khosa's dancing feet. Why aren't the dancing feet a birth defect? Uhm...there's just so much left unexplained, and it seems like things that mostly won't be explained in the second book, but instead are just supposed to be accepted. Maybe I'm wrong there and they will be explained, but I'd at least like to see the things about the Feneen addressed here, because what?
I think the writing was okay, but it was nothing riveting. The perspective flips between first and third person, which is something I've never liked because it just feels really, really inconsistent. And the pacing is just so off. I think there was an interesting premise lurking here but it wasn't really brought out well enough to shine on its own.
2 stars out of 5.