Author: Nandi Taylor
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Genre: Fantasy, YA Romance
Age Range: YA
Thank you to NetGalley and Smith Publicity for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
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―all of whom mistrust anyone who’s different. But Yenni will prove herself, and find the cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.
No one warned her about the dragons. Especially not about him.
Yet 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 an attraction to a dragon . . . or fighting fate itself.
Starting this book, I honestly didn’t know what to expect; I loved the idea, I was curious about it being a Wattpad Books publication, and I was really excited to be reading another POC fantasy story. That being said, the story had good bones, but the rest of the body just didn’t feel quite fleshed out enough for me.
What I liked: The culture that is woven into Nandi Taylor’s work right from the beginning is astounding. The lore, family history, and the world building was rich and well-written, and was fully incorporated in almost every part of the story. When Yenni Ajani gets to Cresh, the culture shock is immediate; Yenni is one of the only darker-skinned people there, and because she’s the princess of the Sha (Moonrise) Isles, she has a deep knowledge of runelore, and is covered in the stark white paint. I loved the commentary on cultural ignorance, from the unnamed microaggressions to the full fledged appropriation of another tribes secret runes, as well as the nuanced critique of Cresh as a colonizing country (where its people are predominantly light-skinned).
In addition to the lush backstory of traditions and magic in this world, Yenni instantly shows us that she’s the kind of princess who has a weakness for beautiful animals, and that she’s not the one to mess with. As a character, Yenni was funny and so stubborn, but I couldn’t have imagined her any other way. And then she meets Weysh, who starts off stupidly arrogant and entitled, but I loved that Yenni was quick to put him in his place.
What I didn’t like: I love a good enemies to lovers plot, and while Yenni and Weysh ticked a few boxes, I didn’t have any strong feelings about their relationship. In other words, I wasn’t rooting for them hardcore, but I wasn’t rooting for their downfall either?? I was sort of indifferent or frustrated most of the time, but I would prefer to be fully invested, yenno? The main let-down for me was the writing; the flow was awkward in a few too many places to ignore, and the scenes and characters felt two-dimensional and didn’t really inspire strong feelings either way (it got close, but it lacked follow-through).
Overall, it was an entertaining story with a few strong elements here and there, but I was disappointed in the lack of depth and the bare feeling of it all, and by the end, I felt like I wanted more.
If you are interested in reading Given for yourself, you can find links to it below (out this coming Tuesday, Jan. 21)!