ARC Review: Given by Nandi Taylor

Given by Nandi Taylor
My Rating: 4/5

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.

Warnings: Colonialism, Racism, sick family member, mention of rape, misogyny.

I was given a free e-book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley.

I think books tends to be misleading sometimes base on their summary and the pitch the companies are trying to sell us. For example one of my favorite authors, Amanda Hocking release a Valkyrie Duology series in 2017 or was it 2018? Can’t remember… But anyway, I expected a full on fantasy Norse fun and instead I got futuristic Urban fantasy which wasn’t bad but it was less what I enjoyed about. So then I got this lovely little book from Wattpad books thanks to the lovely folks at NetGallery and I was shocked cause I thought Wattpad only Fanfic oriented centered around boy bands like One Direction and BTS. Imagine my surprise to learn that it  level up its game and they are diving big time into a full fleshed published books territory!

“From this moment on, I undertake this sacred journey in your name, Oh Most Divine, Watch me and guide me, your servant.”

Yenni Aja-Nifemi Ka Yirba is a princess in her tribe who ever since she was small loved to hunt and learn runelore. She thought her life continue in the same direction until her father gets mysteriously sick, her tribe now looking out on her to marry a rival tribe prince and ensure their safety. Yenni then decides to go on a quest to help find out a way to heal her father by going to the prestigious academy for magic in Cresh, the empire that had try over many decades to colonize her home. Everything is suppose to go fine until she loses control for the first time in her life, she doesn’t know what shes doing and on top of that there’s frustrating dragon boy who proclaims she is destined, Given! Things can only downhill from here, right?

When my eyes first start reading the book I was expecting the usual. A wayward princess going through an epic mystical quest to heal her father, discover earth shockingly reveals and have a big epic fight of massively overly proportional precociousness, right? Nope. Instead, Yenni has to go to a foreign nation that has been a massive thorn for the islands for ages and learn from them different types of magic in hopes of discovering a way to treat her father mysterious illness. Seems like an easier job to accomplish no? Honestly, the author makes no such thing for a lovely girl, Yenni. This determined, headstrong girl has alot on her plate and I felt for her. She simply wants to succeed for her family sake and she fails in everything. She doesn’t understand how this new magic works compares to runelore, she flunks in all her classes, frequently deals with everyone scrutinizing her for her islander origins, learns that her people magic is mistreated and ridiculed upon, it feels way too real and close to home. Nandi Taylor didn’t shy away from presenting us of how it feels to step into a whole new world here and I appreciate it because despite all of the hardships there’s still this glimmer of hope she leaves us on and it makes you want to continue reading and root for Yenni who won’t back down.

“Lunacy,” she said. “I refuse o wed you, dragon.”
“What? You can’t say that.” Weysh turned to Harth. “Can she said that?”
Harth shrugged. “Apparently so.” 

Romances can be a fickle thing, hit or miss to people but this one felt rather special for a whole different reasons. First of, let me explains that Weysh was supposed to be portrayed as this stupid fuckboi for the beginning of the book because he was conveying all this stupid Alpha top male nonsense some romance books love to used in most of their works. Nandi takes this trope and flip that and its both exciting and marvelous. Weysh gets rejected, his ego fractured thanks to our queen Yenni telling him to go find someone else to fornicate and from there on we see how slowly he evolved just like our heroine. He learns to be patient, he learns consent, he becomes a whole new person that wants to be a better self because not only for Yenni but for himself too and stop with all that toxicity that’s been plaguing him all his childhood.

The Romance feels made me swoon and I couldn’t help been obsessed about it I literally nagged my friend, Ruthie about it. Like this never happens in YA novels. It just doesn’t! The love interests stays the same and we all suppose to go along with it and here Taylor says, “NOT IN MY BOOK”. I am honored to have that honor of going through such a ride because this makes me question WATTPAD reputation and I want to see more books go through this journey.

The world of Given is unique, the rune magic is interesting, the Cresh magic is fascinating, there’s so much history and complexity to the dragons and the people it all feels like its been through a lot of process and consideration. The Islanders and tribal inner struggles against one another was cool and I would love to see more of since it was extremely lacking in comparison to the Cresh empire culture.  I wished we had more time to go through Yenni’s home before been whisked away to the academy and the over whole plot of the book which on itself can sometimes be heavily forgotten due to the romance aspect. Perhaps if Given gets a chance and a sequel in the works then it’d be able to touch on those issues.

GIVEN was an experience let me tell you and I recommend it. It does things different that most YA books don’t do. It doesn’t afraid to go and deal with serious issues and address them, the romance isn’t sappy and has more merit and you have a fantastic co leads to get you through this book. Please try it out, for me? 😉

Is it diverse? African and Caribbean main characters, One Bisexual character, Mentions of Gay and Lesbians representations. 

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