A subversive fantasy-romance steeped in West-African and Caribbean traditions.
Yenni has never been this far from home. With only her wits, her strength and her sacred runelore, the fierce Yirba warrior princess is alone in the Empire of Cresh. It’s a land filled with strange magics and even stranger people—many of whom mistrust anyone who’s different. But Yenni will prove herself, and find a cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.
No one warned her about the dragons. Especially not about him.
Yes, there is something powerful and compelling about the violet-black dragon known as Weysh. In human form he’s muscular, beautiful—and completely infuriating. What kind of arrogant creature claims a stranger as his Given; as his destined mate? Yenni is no man’s—or dragon’s—plaything. But other magics must be at work here, because Weysh might just be her best hope at finding the answers she seeks.
Only now Yenni can’t tell if she’s fighting her attraction to a dragon…or fighting fate itself.
Great golden sky turtles!
Given is the compelling and thought-provoking YA fantasy debut from author Nandi Taylor, and is an account of destiny, fate, and faith. It’s a tale of respecting culture, holding true to your beliefs, and the ugly cost of ignorance and insensitivity. Touching upon several topics that are currently prominent in our own world, such as gender and racial inequality, I found it rather easy to connect to this book. While its core consists of a romance cultivated by the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope, it’s really a story of love and respect – for your friends, family, and most importantly, yourself.
The strongest aspects of this book all coincide with absolutely wonderful worldbuilding. Of my favorites, the magic system, which differs from region to region based on how “advanced” a society is, is at the top of that list. Yenni is an expert at runelore, but judgemental individuals in this faraway land aren’t hesitant to let her know that the magic she wields is inferior. This culture clash among a diverse cast of characters not only perfectly builds tension, but also makes for pretty interesting banter. Gorgeously portrayed landscapes, a unique plot, and some exceptional moments of intense action made this an enjoyable read.
I believe most of my issues with this book stem from the misleading blurb attached to it. I honestly went into this thinking I’d be swept along on a perilous journey in search for the all-elusive cure, but was instead presented with a magic school. It served its purpose, and did so relatively well, but it was completely unexpected. Also, the supporting characters felt a bit flat to me, and the evolution of both Yenni and Weysh at times felt forced. Taking their young ages into consideration, questionable decisions led to an unnecessary drawing out of conflict resolution. For this being a character-centric narrative, I was hoping these elements would be more powerful.
The description has no mention of a sequel, but the ending doesn’t bring Yenni’s journey to a conclusion, so I’m hoping this isn’t the last time we visit this world Taylor has created. While Given has its issues, I think it’s an engaging debut with tons of potential for growth in the future. Although labeled YA, our young leads are forced to deal with very adult situations, so I would say this could be enjoyed by all. If you’re looking for a story of love and magic and dragons, then you may want to give this one a try.
Note: A huge thank you to the author and Wattpad Books for providing me with a complementary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Nandi Taylor is a Canadian writer of Caribbean descent based in Toronto. She’s a two-time Watty award winner, and her Wattpad story Given has garnered over one million reads and earned the 2018 Worldbuilders Watty award.
Nandi grew up devouring sci-fi and fantasy novels, and from a young age wrote books of her own. Her books are an expression of what she always wanted more of growing up—diverse protagonists in speculative settings. Common themes she writes about are growth, courage, and finding one’s place in the world.
Her debut novel Given will be published by Wattpad Books in January 2020.