But Yenni will prove herself, and find a cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Author: Nandi Taylor
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Page Count: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★
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.
Thanks so much to The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me be a part of the GIVEN Blog Tour!
I received an ARC of this book from Wattpad Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning: Attempted murder, Violence, Sexism, Prejudice, Discussion of a past Rape, Mugging
Magic belongs to everyone, Yenni Ajani. Rich and poor. Islander or Creshen.
Yenni, a Princess to the Yirba tribe, has grown up on the Moonrise Isles. Privy to the lifestyle a princess, she understands that the role she has is significant, and demands responsibility. Thus, marriage to a neighboring tribe may be her calling in order to bring her tribe peace with another alliance. Yenni’s father, and chief of the Yurbi tribe, however, has fallen ill with a wasting disease. Healers have been trying to keep his illness at bay with the use of Rune magic, to little avail.
Rune magic is a sacred and powerful tradition among the clans that inhabit the Isles, and practiced regularly. Specific runes are passed down from generation to generation, and some, are rarely shared in order to keep their purposes secret. Runes, and many other practices are very different from the world that Yenni must travel to.
Orire N’jem is a sacred journey, undertaken to honor the Sha—our gods. I must complete the task they assign, and in return my tribe will receive their blessing.
Yenni decides to travel to the land of Cresh in order to study and learn how to help her father. Afflicted with Wither-rot, the tribe’s chief is declining rapidly in his health, and Yenni may be his only hope. Upon arrival, Yenni is struck by the completely different world she has landed in. People of all different colors (literally) and origins converge in a city of knowledge. Not only that, but dragons still exist on Cresh—they were killed off over three hundred years ago on the isles. After a strange encounter with one, Yenni learns that she is a Given—a predestined mate to a dragon/human. This turn of events is exactly the distraction that she doesn’t need, not to mention with the off-putting man who claims she is his future betrothed.
Weysh, born of the dragonkind, has always been sought out by women. With good looks, charm, and the ability to turn into a dragon, he’s utterly irresistible, or so he thinks. When he meets his Given, Yenni, he’s shocked that she doesn’t bow to the expectations that she’s to be his romantic conquest. Puzzled by Yenni’s refusal, Weysh endures a painstaking journey to win her favor, with a little humility, and ultimately, some common sense.
Yenni enrolls in the school in Cresh that teaches about magic. This magic, however, is nothing like the “primitive,” as Creshians call it, Rune magic she is accustomed to. Through a series of events, it turns out that her only hope in passing her classes and staying enrolled is to be tutored by Weysh.
Through many up’s and down’s, Yenni begins to learn her way around this new magic, and Weysh, learns how to act appropriately around Yenni. Inevitably, the two learn more about one another, particularly their cultures and customs, and are able to bridge the chasm between them. The problem begs to differ, how will it all end?
Given is a story packed full of original mythology, magic, and world-building. Lands with very different stories are developed well (visually, not so much.) Religion and mythology exist in both the mainland and the Isles, as well as customs, traditions, specifically represented in magic. Weysh, one of few dragonkind, is said to be descendants of the sacred warriors of their god, Byen. Unlike his predecessors, he has the ability to shift between human and dragon form, whereas the original dragons didn’t have a human form.
Weysh’s character is like chewing on a tough piece of jerky—unpleasant, and off-putting. When he first shows up on the scene, he has no idea that a woman has her own will. He has no concept that even though Yenni is his Given, she still has a free will. Yenni, a princess (although, this is kept secret for most of the story) and warrior, is incredibly driven and has no interest in being his Given because 1) she doesn’t know him, and 2) he’s incredibly demeaning.
Entitlement is represented in almost every character in some way or another. Everyone wants something, without understanding the full meaning of what it takes to get that, and the sacrifice others must make. I think this story does a good job and creating opportunities for growth in each character and learning empathy. My main issue is that the plot moves very slowly. It allows time for the characters to grow towards one another—which I’m not complaining about. To be honest, it took me a long time to look positively upon these characters. Furthermore, the events that take place aren’t incredibly pivotal. I appreciated the way the cultures were built in this diverse read, but the characters themselves didn’t impact me on a deep level.
Sexual content: See above content warning.
My Rating: ★★★
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This playlist was created by the author Nandi Taylor!
Seventh Heaven by Dreamcatcher: This one reminds me of Yenni and her cousins stalking the N’ne on the plains.
Jin go lo ba by Babatunde Olatunji: This is what would be playing at Yenni’s birthday feast.
Streets of Rabanastre by Hiroki Sakimoto (From the Final Fantasy 12 OST): Helped me shape the streets of Imperium Centre
The Dalmasca Esthersand by Hiroki Sakimoto (From the Final Fantasy 12 OST): Played this for flying scenes
Simmer by Mahalia and Burna Boy: No particular scene for this one, it’s just a jam, and the lyrics remind me of Yenni and Weysh’s relationship
Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabaté: This is what plays in the restaurant on the docks
Dancé by Machal Montano: The vibe fits the docks (area of Imperium Centre heavily populated by Islanders) and Sainte Ventas.
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.
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