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Carve the Mark Hardcover – January 17, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Lifegiving "current" hums throughout the planets in what Akos knows as "the galaxy." This includes Akos's nation-planet of Thuvhe along with planets Zold, Othyr, Urek, Shotet, and more. Cyra dwells on Shotet, a bitter Thuvhesit enemy. Akos and Cyra each have currentgifts, which manifest at adolescence. His gift can provide relief, while hers causes pain for herself and others. In Roth's military-styled world, battles are settled with currentblades, and victors scar their arms with kill marks, meant both to count the dead and, in some cases, to honor them. The story is told from the perspectives of both Akos and Cyra. Readers follow a third-person view of Akos, who was brought unwillingly to Shotet and harbors deep resentments, while Cyra, always at the edge of pain and ready for battle, narrates in first person. Gradually, Cyra and Akos move from grudging tolerance of each other to respect and then love. Intrigue, poisonings, and an epic battle in the final chapters set the stage for the next book in this planned duology. Roth's dark world mixes classic elements, such as oracles and gladiator-style battles, with futuristic bullies who have a thirst for power. VERDICT The author's name may catch the eye of "Divergent" trilogy fans, but they will find that this book has less romance and more violence. Consider where Marie Lu's "Young Elites" series, Eoin Colfer's "W.A.R.P." books, and Allen Zadoff's "Unknown Assassin" titles are popular.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
★ “Roth skillfully weaves the careful world-building and intricate web of characters that distinguished Divergent, with settings that are rich with color, ripe for a cinematographer. Roth fans will cheer this new novel with its power to absorb the reader. Readers will be anxiously awaiting the sequel.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (starred review))
“Brimming with plot twists and highly likely to please Roth’s fans.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“This duology offers shades of George Lucas sprawl and influence, Game of Thrones clan intrigue, and a little Romeo & Juliet-style romance. There are cliffhangers aplenty and dangling plot lines to lure us to the next book.” (USA Today)
“Roth fans will rejoice at this new outing that focuses on themes familiar from her Divergent series: identity, individual versus social responsibilities, and ethical quandaries.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“Roth offers a richly imagined, often-brutal world of political intrigue and adventure, with a slow-burning romance at its core. Roth’s fans will be happily on board for the forthcoming sequel.” (Booklist)
“The Divergent author builds out this new world—one reminiscent of Star Wars, with its discussions of ‘the current’ and ‘currentgifts’—while still presenting the stark brutality of the circumstances both protagonists find themselves in.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“With her talent for action-packed plots and powerful characters, Roth’s latest is sure to be much talked-about all of 2017.” (Brightly)
“Roth’s worldbuilding is commendable; each nation is distinct, interacting with the current in ways that give insight into her characters’ motivations. Readers will eagerly await a second installment.” (Publishers Weekly)
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Carve the Mark is set in outer space in a world that is unique and dark. Our main characters Cyra and Akos are from opposing groups of people; Cyra is Shotet, a tyrannical nation that seeks to conquer the rest of the planets in the galaxy. Akos is from Thuvhe, a community of morally straight and narrow people, who are gentle and hate violence. In Cyra's and Akos' world, a magical current flows through the galaxy which contributes to every individuals "current gift". Cyra's current gift is dealing out pain with just a touch, a pain she also has to endure every minute of her life. Akos' current gift is his ability to negate other's current gifts. While others would see their current gifts as useful, Cyra and Akos believe theirs to be a great burden. Others seek to use them for their own gain. Cyra in particular is used as her brother's torturer and executioner to any who go against his tyranny.
What I found most refreshing was the gender role switch between Cyra and Akos. Cyra is the strong and fierce one of the two. Her current gift has turned her into a fierce individual, one who has no qualms with taking matters into her own hands, even if it means a fight to the death. As the title Carve the Mark suggest, Cyra's people, Shotets, "carve a mark" into their arms for each life they take. While some do it as a show of strength and pride like Cyra's brother, others like Cyra do it as a reminder of the evil deeds they have done.
Akos is the opposite of Cyra because he's gentle and cringes at the thought of violence. Thrust into Cyra's world, Akos is forced to betray those beliefs and turns to violence to survive. You see, in their world certain people are born with "fates" that oracles like Akos' younger brother can see. Not everyone has a fate, but those who do can't escape them. It's due to Akos' fate that is forced into Cyra's Shotet world. Both characters struggle to deal with their fates and their own personal demons. I found Cyra and Akos to be authentic and raw. Their budding romance has not come easy and I loved that it didn't. It was real and honest. Each found something in the other that they benefitted from, and they ultimately changed each other. Cyra learned that she could be more than just a weapon that's used by her brother. Akos taught her that she could rise above her gift and that her gift does not define her. Akos learned that the Shotet people he's grown to despise all of his life are not as black and white when it comes to their brutal nature as he thought.
Veronica Roth has received some harsh criticisms in two areas of her book. Many believe that her story is racist in terms of the portrayal of the Shotet and Thuvhe people. In some areas she describes the Shotet's as bronzer skin and their language sounds "harsh". Thuvhesit's are painted to be of fairer skin and their language is more softer and graceful. People feel this is a depiction of Blacks and Whites, and due to the language of Shotets being described as harsh, they feel it has racist undertones. I will speak out against this claim because if people read more closely, Cyra's brother is described to be of lighter skin with lighter eyes and he's Shotet. Here's a case where people are reading too much into it and blowing smoke when there's no fire.
Another major critique Roth has received has to deal with Cyra's current gift. Although she can dish out pain, she lives with that same pain every day. Roth has spoken about knowing people in her immediate social circle who live with chronic pain in their daily lives, and wrote about a character that deals with the same issues. However, some people feel like she's an ableist because they feel she makes Cyra's pain define her. Veronica Roth did an interview with NPR and discussed how her character was inspired by people having chronic pain. The interviewer says that pain could be a gift, and Roth agrees. The transcript can be found HERE . Again, people are not understanding Roth's intention with Cyra as a character and the message she is sending. Veronica blatantly states how chronic pain is underestimated often by doctors, statistically more so in women. Cyra has to find ways to act and react despite the constant pain she endures. That pain has made her into a stronger individual, therefore able to withstand every curveball that has been thrown at her. Cyra goes through some traumatic things at the hands of her brother, and I believe Veronica Roth intended to portray Cyra as someone who can handle it because of her endurance of daily chronic pain. Once again, I feel that people were critiquing something and forming assumptions based on a misconception of Roth's ideas and intentions. Cyra is indeed tough, even admirable, and while her chronic pain has shaped her into this fierce individual, no way does it define her. Roth clearly makes a point of this when she has Akos tell Cyra she can be more than just her pain. I don't understand how people could totally misread these two elements of Roth's book and furthermore rate it 1-2 stars, but now that I have debunked these "critiques", let's move on.
Roth's characters were dynamic, diverse, and intense. Each one had a distinct voice and none of her characters were cookie cutter. I loved the balance between the build up and the climax of the story. We get a perfect blend of character and world building, and also some very great action scenes. Roth did an amazing job at describing the cultures of her world, and while some people have also critiqued that her world isn't realistic and that some of it doesn't follow the laws of science (i.e. a planet full of mainly water yet inhabitable), at the end of the day it's fiction.
Carve the Mark is gritty, dark, and encompasses all the elements that make a book fantastic. Characters that deal with issues that are relatable to the reader, a romance that is organic and stays true to characters involved, and a spell-binding story about a galaxy of people that are divided and on the brink of war. If you love Science fiction with some dystopian elements sprinkled on top, this book is DEFINITELY for you.
Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I had expected. It was pretty fast paced. Too many characters were introduced so I couldn't feel for the main characters. Some characters were introduced and then only had small, almost irrelevant, parts. I tried to visualized the world they lived in and found it difficult because I felt as though there were pieces of Dune by Frank Herbert and then Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Every time I came across the word "Benesit " the name/title of one of the families, I kept wanting to say "Bene Gesserit" from Dune.
As for the relationship between the two main characters, I felt very little for them. As mentioned, because it was so fast paced and so much information was being thrown in, I really couldn't relate to the relationship or to their situation.
What was very obvious was the pain the protagonist felt and how she learned to deal with it. I think if the focus was solely on this as the story, how she was chosen to have this type of power that would cause herself pain, and how she learned to control or manage it, would have been a great story on its own.
I really wanted to like this story. I love sci-fi and fantasy combined. I did enjoy Roth's writing and how easily one scene merged into the next. I wasn't sure if I'd like the first person view from the protagonist and then the 3rd person view from the second main character, but Roth did it well.