Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Rating: ★★.5 // Can I wake up now?
Favorite Line: “I saw, for the first time, how thin the line was between fear and love, between reverence and adoration.”
Ummph. This book was hard to get through.
Summary (via GoodReads)
In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.
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 the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?
Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.
Apparently I live under a rock because I had no idea this book had a lot of controversy until I was in the middle of reading it. I usually try to avoid spoilers of books I want to read and therefore I don’t read reviews, I just look at ratings. The rating on GoodReads was around the 4 star area, and Veronica Roth is a talented storyteller, so I figured it was good. Halfway through I was still struggling to get into it, so I looked up some reviews to see if others had this problem (this is usually my tactic to see if I should stick it out or drop it). And that’s when I found all the negative comments.
Most of the negativity was about the book being racist and about how Roth addressed chronic pain (the main character has chronic pain). I can see the racist part because the whole book pits one race against the other (the races aren’t based on skin color necessarily, but more on country of origin). One race is the powerful and bad race, while the other is the good and beat-down race. With the two main characters, the one with the power to inflict pain has dark skin and the one who brings her comfort has light skin…yes, there are racist tones in this book. I do not think, however, Roth was intentional about racist undertones, my suspicion is that she only intended to add more diversity but did not realize she was making it racist by doing so–this mistake should have been discussed and corrected by her editors before publication.
The chronic pain is a major plot point, but since I have never had chronic pain I really don’t feel qualified to address the subject, or critique the way it was portrayed. All I know is that it is hard to properly portray things that you have not experienced, especially when everyone experiences it differently, and I’m sure she was trying to portray it the best she could, but apparently it was not accurate, and she should have done more research.
Ok, now with those two out of the way, let’s talk about the book. I found this book extremely boring. Honestly, I think I need to stay away from YA novels for awhile–almost all the ones I have read in the last 2 years have bored me and/or aggravated me. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong ones, but maybe it’s just not my thing anymore.
The main problem with this book was that it was a character-driven action book, but the characters were bland and the action was all over the place it made the plot hard to follow. I can’t tell if the plot was too complex or not complex enough, but I almost think there were just too many changes to the plot. Same with characters, all of the sudden there were tons of characters that came back in that I had completely forgotten about, and they introduce a whole different aspect of the plot. It was all very jumpy.
The characters, as I said, were bland. There wasn’t a single one I felt any affection for, which is extremely rare for me because I’m pretty empathetic, and I tend to attach to other people’s situations easily. One main problem, I believe, were the character’s names…they were all bizarre. I mean, can’t we have a dystopian/futuristic/sci-fi book where characters have names like Jim, Bob, and Katie? I understand the book needs a sense of distance because it’s set in space, but even Star Wars had a Luke and Ben, so I think a normal name every once in a while would be ok.
Speaking of space. I really forgot this was in space several times throughout the book. I was also confused about how the space would was set up, or even how the different planets work. Mainly, the world building could use some more work, or at least some more explanation.
ummmmmm…well, I am giving it more than one star, so I have to have something positive….ok, well, I did like the idea of the currentgifts. I thought it was clever to have a world where some people are granted gifts from the current (an powerful energy source that really isn’t explained very clearly…it’s just there), and I think that idea is very intriguing. Also, the cover is pretty bomb.
Overall, I do feel sorry for Roth and all the backlash she is getting, because, after reading the book, I do not think she was intentional in offending anyone, and all of it could have been avoided had she done more research, had a focus group, had an editor who caught things like this, really anything except what she did. It’s a shame though because there are a lot of negative reviews from people who haven’t even read it, they’ve just heard negative things about it…rule of thumb people, read it before you bash it. There may be some people out there who like this book…I’m assuming big YA fans could really like this book, I am just not one of those people (just how many people think classics are the biggest bore ever, and I’m over here rereading Frankenstein for fun).
Ok, rant over. This book was a miss for me, but check it out if you are into YA, Space, unique cultures, unexpected friendships, and overcoming tyrants.
If you want to purchase the book, you can do so here on my affiliate Book Depository page (for a discount).