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.
Unfortunately, Carve the Mark fell drastically short of my expectations. Whether it was the lack of empathy I had for the characters, the limited knowledge I had of the world where this story took place or the way this novel has been called out for racism, or maybe a mix of all three, I made the decision to put down Carve the Mark around the halfway point. Please take that into consideration when reading my review.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
One of the things that puts me off reading much high fantasy or intense sci-fi is the issue with naming characters. People will either be called names that I can’t pronounce and I have to give them new names, or I’ll get mixed up between characters and be like: “So is that the brother? Or the sister? I just don’t know anymore.” To me, a name is something that initiates the beginning of a strong connection with characters and it can be used to highlight a characteristic of the person or even ironically. So on top of everyone in Carve the Mark having “unique” names that made me lose track of characters, the way that we were introduced to so many characters in the first few chapters made it impossible to get to know them well until the halfway mark. But obviously I wasn’t that devoted to them because it wasn’t hard for me to put down Carve the Mark without any hesitations or regrets.
Houston, we have a problem.
While the idea of people having a “gift” that was unique to them and could either make them stronger or be something they had to work at to ensure it didn’t consume them, the general world-building was definitely lacking in the beginning. I’m someone who can’t get fully involved in a story until I feel as though I’m actually walking alongside the characters I’m introduced to, and that’s a little hard when I can’t even picture the ground they’re stepping on. Although I’d much prefer slow but steady world building throughout the novel to info-dumping, I felt that it took me quite a while until I could imagine where these people were living and the type of society they were surrounded by. But even when I put this novel down at around the halfway mark, the foundations were still a little shaky.
Stick to what you’re good at, Veronica. Oh wait…
When I first heard about Carve the Mark, I was unbelievably excited. Before realising that Veronica Roth absolutely ruined me with Allegiant and I still hadn’t forgiven her for that, as well as making the mistake of seeing the films and having them taint my memory of this series. When I read Divergent a few years ago, I quite liked it, but the series undeniably went downhill. What I wanted from Veronica was Divergent amplified and improved, another fantastic dystopian to sink my teeth into and get caught up in. Alas, that was not the case. I don’t mind reading fantasy and sci-fi, but Carve the Mark just wasn’t gripping as Divergent was and I was disappointed to find that I didn’t feel connected to the characters like I did with Tris and Four and I didn’t feel compelled to read on, unlike how I devoured Divergent in one sitting. It was just hard to get into, hard to connect to, and impossible to finish because of that. Sorry.
Are we done yet?
As I mentioned before, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make to DNF Carve the Mark. After hearing everyone scream about wanting a copy when ARCs were being sent out and then take this book off their TBR when it was called out for racism (which I’ll get to in a second), there was a tiny part of me that thought that I should just force myself to finish it and get on with it so that I could write a properly informed and holistic review. But then I realised that my opinion about this book is pretty obvious if I found it so hard to get into and so disappointing that I couldn’t even finish it. Even another person I’ve talked to who received an ARC couldn’t get through it. If you’re expecting Carve the Mark to sweep you off your feet and become your new favourite duology, I think you might have to reconsider.
Another one bites the dust.
And finally, if you’re present on social media and the online bookish community, you will have heard that Carve the Mark has been called out for being racist and problematic by various readers who are much more informed than I am and feel directly affected, offended or hurt by what is written in Carve the Mark. While I’m white and I’m obviously not in the position to declare what’s racist and what isn’t, I’m a strong believer in calling out problematic representation and racism and I believe that we should all be reading more diverse books. But again, as I DNF’d this novel, I can’t say much directly about the racism (as I might not have encountered the majority or the worst of it), but it was a factor in why I decided to put this book down because as much as I wanted to write a holistic review of Carve the Mark, I didn’t want to push aside my beliefs in doing so. If you only want to read Carve the Mark to see if it’s racist for yourself, please don’t buy a copy. We should be using our money to show publishers that we want more diverse, #OwnVoices novels instead of the same thing over and over again by non-marginalised writers. Listen to those who have spoken about the racism issues in Carve the Mark and don’t be one of those people who assumes it isn’t racist because you weren’t offended or affected.
If you’d like to read an exceptionally well-written piece about the trope of the dark-skinned aggressor in Carve the Mark and The Continent, check out this post by Justina Ireland.
Read diversely. Support #OwnVoices.
So instead of supporting ANY novel that’s been called out for being problematic or racist, I encourage you to pick up a diverse novel instead. We need to show the publishers that these are the books we want to read. Here are some of my favourite posts about diverse YA novels and most-anticipated diverse releases:
Did you receive an ARC of Carve the Mark? Was this one on your TBR? Are you likely to change your mind about reading a book if it’s called out for being problematic? What’s your favourite diverse release of 2016, and what diverse book are you most excited to read next year? I’d love to know!