What a disappointment. I couldn’t get through Given by Nandi Taylor. It honestly kind of pained me to realize that this novel was going to be a DNF for me, but at about 47% I just couldn’t take it anymore. To put it bluntly, if you’re looking for a novel with flat supporting characters, excessive info-dumping, the author telling you how to feel about the characters yet showing nothing to validate those supposed feelings, and one of the worst ways to write pre-destined / fated relationships by having a male character ignore the rules of consent, well then, by all means, look to Taylor’s Given.
For me, this book was super cringy.
I really wanted to like this book. It has an absolutely gorgeous cover and began with one of the best introductions to a world that I’ve gotten from a book in a long time. I was immediately entranced by the creatures, the rune-lore, the magic, and the people. It was a place I wanted to learn so much more about. The story seemed meant to immerse readers in a new culture and simultaneously allow for commentary on race. Instead of expanding upon these things, though, the majority of it was all tossed out to the side in favor of the main character traveling to a more “westernized,” for lack of a better term, nation to learn about their magic and culture. Oh, and to fall in love. Obviously.
Perhaps one of the most egregious things Taylor does with her novel is to tell her readers who the characters are and what they are like. We are told that the main character, Yenni Anaji, the daughter of the chief of her tribe is an intelligent, caring, and strong warrior. Yet, often I feel like we get little to actually show us these aspects of her character. Instead of caring, she was whiny. Instead of intelligent, she was ignorant and privileged.
We are told that the love interest–gag me–is amazing, considerate, immensely loved and desired by those around him, and treats all women exceptionally well. Yet, all of that is blown to smithereens as Weysh, the dragon, not only assaults Yenni Anaji upon meeting her but even after she makes it very clear she wants nothing to do with his romantic advances he continues them. Rather than doing the bare minimum of learning her name, Weysh insists that she is his “Given,” or soulmate, proposes marriage, informs her she will have his child, and snatches her off the ground to fly her off all entirely without her consent.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, but even his friends tell him he needs to back off. They do this, mind, not because they think his actions are abhorrent and wrong, but rather because respecting wishes is apparently seductive? And what does resident ignorer of consent Weysh do with this helpful information? He implies he thinks doing so would be dumb because he supposedly deserves her and she’s supposed to belong to him because it’s how destiny has always worked for dragons. He is also just so condescending toward Yenni Anaji that I found him utterly irredeemable as a person, let alone a love interest.
This guy is so toxic.
I lost track of how many times I cringed while reading this.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you whether the supporting characters ever had a chance to be decent as I don’t get enough time with any of them to determine that. Unless they are somehow leading something along for the main two, they’re basically non-existent. The worst example of this I have comes in the form of Weysh’s girlfriend, with whom he breaks up almost immediately after meeting Yenni Anaji, kind of completely contradicting this idea that he’s such a great guy to women that the author posited to us.
Oh, but don’t forget that she’s still there to tell Yenni Anaji how amazing Weysh is. Nevermind that he stomped all over her heart without any care. Of course, her only purpose would be to convince the woman her ex assaulted the very second he first smelled her that he’s actually worth being with.
Just a word of advice to anyone looking to write “destined to be” romances: don’t do it this way. It’s gross, it’s cringy, and it’s super problematic. Consent is an extremely important aspect of a relationship, I don’t care how “destined” it is. If you ignore consent, if you let your characters ignore consent, it’s a serious problem.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.