When the New Year was only just 11 days old, I wrote a post about the top 5 Fantasy YA books to look forward to in 2017. One of those books was Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark. Now we all know Veronica Roth as the author of the Divergent series. I haven’t read them myself, but I heard that the first two books are great and the last one not so much. I’ve seen the film though. It was enjoyable. Anyway, I would not make a list of books I think you should look forward to and then not read them myself. Which is why I bought the book and read it for you. I have made a beautiful video in which I explained my thoughts, but also a regular blog post. Just because I know not everybody is into watching videos. I am a very considerate person.
What is Carve the Mark about?
This is a very good question. After reading this book, I still do not quite know what the whole point of the plot is. Anyway, I just stole this synopsis off the internet because it probably explains it better than I can:
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.
Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.
Oh science fiction and space! It must be good, right?
Well, I didn’t think so really. This book was advertised as a cross between Star Wars and Divergent. While I haven’t read Divergent, I think it is dangerous to have your book be compared to your old work and one of the most successful franchises of all time. Carve The Mark follows the well-known route of different worlds than our own, where a cruel tyrant rules over his people with an iron fist. Naturally, the people opposing them are good and gentle. They live their own way, but then something (in this case fates) makes them cross paths. The tyrants obviously has to be defeated.
In this world, hold your breath, everybody has a special power. I know, you’ve never heard that one before! The power comes from a mysterious source called the Current, and the power is called a currentgift. Most of these currentgifts are very plot convenient and quite frankly, it made the story a little bit dull. I don’t mind special powers. If an author uses them well enough, it’s cool. Yet here it just seems that every gift we encounter is something to just happen to make life either easier or harder for our main characters.
Furthermore, the pacing of this novel was incredibly slow. I felt like the author was just filling pages to hit the word count, while in the meantime there was a serious lack of world-building. Something that is very crucial in a novel like this. So it took place in space, but might as well have taken place in Alabama, or Hogwarts for all I care. The space setting did not really add anything, other than a justification to use very difficult names. Whenever something almost happened, it was over within the blink of an eye and we were back to reading about the pain Cyra was constantly in, or how much Akos wanted to save his brother. All very well, but please just move the hell on.
Also, the novel has this annoying open ending. Yes, I know that there will be a sequel. That is no reason to not finish the first story with at least some sort of satisfactory ending in case someone doesn’t want to read the sequel. I am always annoyed when a book ends with more questions than answers.
But there is a bad guy! Tell me more about it!
The bad guy in this novel is Cyra’s brother Ryzek Noavek. Your typical bad guy, who barely has any character development. We are being told that he is this cruel because of their dad and that he used to be nice. However, there is no bad guy, unless you are Lord Voldemort, who is a 100% evil. Someone always thinks that what they are doing is right. At times, Roth tries to imply Ryzek feels this way, but basically Ryzek is just there to be an antagonist. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It might just be me, but I don’t really like to read about characters that are either good or really bad. There is a reason people are who they are. They can’t constantly be bad for the sake of needing someone to be bad.
Ryzek wasn’t the only character that wasn’t really developed. I felt like most characters were just there for the sake of being there. Only the main characters had some sort of development, but that is not enough.
I bet there is romance involved though. Tell me more
Well, naturally Cyra and Akos fall in love. That is a spoiler that should not come as a surprise. However, I did not feel any chemistry between them. Any attempts at making me feel like these characters were romantically involved were forced. The moment they do admit that they are in love, it just feels so sudden and unrealistic, despite the built-up to this moment. I honestly did not care whether they ended up together or not. Strange considering these are the main characters we are talking about.
Okay, but what about this controversy?
So the story is basically about two different races who are enemies. The Thuvesit, who are a very civilised people, and the Shotet, who are violent and war-driven. Not a problem, right? It would not have been if the Thuvesit weren’t portrayed as white and the Shotet as black or as POCs. Now while I was reading this, I did not quite think about it, but as I researched the novel later, it did make sense. This blog perfectly describes the issue.It is certainly something you should take into consideration before you read the book.
So, is it worth reading or not?
Honestly, it isn’t a bad novel. But it is not great either. The story had more potential and the world-building and character development lacked too much. The writing was good, but at times the author tries to be too poetic and says things without saying anything. Add to that the fact that the portrayal of certain characters is considered racist by quite a lot of people and it also diminishes my enjoyment of the novel. Furthermore, everything that happened felt as though it was simply plot convenience, instead of an actual story.
So while it is not necessarily a bad book, I do not feel like picking it up again or even reading its sequel.