A book review by Zoey Tsoura
Carve the Mark is the new book by Veronica Roth, author of the successful Divergent trilogy. It is the first part of a duology that will be completed in April 2018 with the publication of The Fates Divide.
This time Roth doesn’t take us to a dystopian future but to a different galaxy (or solar system, if we want to be scientifically accurate, which Roth probably didn’t). This system, with its nine inhabited planets, is surrounded by the current, a type of energy that gifts each person with a magical power. Carve the Mark takes place on the planet Thuvhe, amidst the conflict between the peaceful Thuvhesits who live in the frozen North, and the barbaric nation of the Shotet who live in the warmer South.
Akos, one of the two main characters, whose gift is to cancel out other people’s gifts, is a Thuvhesit. His life is turned upside down the day that the leaders of the planets, for some unfathomable reason, expose the fates of certain people to the public. (Everyone has a ‘currentgift’, fewer have fates: a specific destiny usually connected to larger scale events). Due to their fates, Akos and his brother are taken prisoner by the Shotet.
The second main character is Cyra, sister to the violent and sadistic Ryzek, leader of the Shotet. Cyra’s currentgift is to inflict pain on others by touch. Its side effect is the unbearable pain with which she herself has to live with on a permanent basis, a physical and mental torment which becomes even worse by the fact that her brother is using her as torturer and executioner, and she allows it because she’s terrified of him.
I may be in pain, but I am not weak.
Akos and Cyra will meet when the first starts to serve the latter. Their coexistence, initially full of suspicion and hostility, is the axis around which the story revolves. The friendship and understanding that gradually develop between the two of them as they get over the prejudices of their respective people, is the catalyst of the events in Carve the Mark. Akos and Cyra will try to end the conflict between Thuvhesits and Shotet, and bring peace to their planet. To do that though, they have to defeat the powerful Ryzek first.
Carve the Mark is a story that relies heavily on its characters and their development. I liked both of the main ones: Akos, who is more sensitive and kind-hearted, and Cyra, who is tougher and more cynical. They learn from each other, evolve and grow, one of them hardening, the other softening, and it was beautiful to watch this process blossom into something new: a bridge between two nations. The general plot with the fates was fairly predictable, and Ryzek as an antagonist was unstable and irritating rather than a master of machinations, however I didn’t mind because I was compensated by Akos and Cyra, like a movie whose weaknesses you acknowledge but they don’t bother you because of the main leads’ flawless performances. Oh, and how could I not love the fact that the Shotet are scavengers who travel in space chasing the current and visiting other planets? I love space traveling, and the scavenging tour of the Shotet was undoubtedly the most amazing part of the story for me. I definitely recommend this book.
I didn’t choose the blood that runs in my veins, any more than you chose your fate. You and I, we’ve become what we were made to become.
P.S. In case you have read reviews that blame this book as being racist, don’t let them deter you from reading it. Having read those first, I read the book vigilantly and personally found these accusations to be unfounded. These reviewers take the fact that the peaceful, ‘good’ Thuvhesits are white while the barbaric, ‘bad’ Shotet that want to conquer them are darker-skinned, and make connections either with the Islam, or with Africa, or Mexico. Keep in mind however that these reviewers are mostly US citizens, who view the world through the lens of their own culture and everyday life, as does any of us. Roth was unlucky enough to have her book published during a politically tense time in the US. Personally, having grown up in a country that during its thousands years of history has suffered from conquerors of every skin color, I didn’t mind the skin color of the people in this book, especially since Roth never attempted to draw parallels between her fiction and reality.
Back cover synopsis: On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favoured 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.
About the Book: Globally bestselling Divergent author Veronica Roth delivers a breathtaking fantasy featuring an unusual friendship, an epic love story, and a galaxy-sweeping adventure.
Praise for Carve the Mark:
“Roth skillfully weaves the careful world-building and intricate web of characters that distinguished Divergent.” —VOYA (starred review)
“Roth offers a richly imagined, often brutal world of political intrigue and adventure, with a slow-burning romance at its core.” —ALA Booklist
Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth have grown up in enemy countries locked in a long-standing fight for dominance over their shared planet. When Akos and his brother are kidnapped by the ruling Noavek family, Akos is forced to serve Cyra, the sister of a dictator who governs with violence and fear. Cyra is known for her deadly power of transferring extraordinary pain unto others with simple touch, and her tyrant brother uses her as a weapon against those who challenge him. But as Akos fights for his own survival, he recognizes that Cyra is also fighting for hers, and that her true gift—resilience—might be what saves them both.
When Akos and Cyra are caught in the middle of a raging rebellion, everything they’ve been led to believe about their world and themselves must be called into question. But fighting for what’s right might mean betraying their countries, their families, and each other.
When the time comes, will they choose loyalty or love?
Title: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Year of publication: 2017
Pages: 528 (hardback edition)
Image editing: Panagiota Goutzourela