My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What a person did when they were in pain said a lot about them. —Akos
Yey, I finally finished reading this controversial book. Before I even picked it up, I did some extensive research just because so many people were ranting about it. I watched reviews on YouTube, which were rarely positive in tone. Heck, I even saw a video wherein the BookTuber burst into tears because of all the stress this book had been giving her. Of course, I was quite moved by all of the drama surrounding the release of Carve the Mark. Still, I wanted to remain as objective as possible, so I also perused the Web for Veronica Roth’s written and recorded responses. After reading her blog post (which addressed the issues of racism and ableism), I eventually mustered enough courage to read this book. To my surprise, it was a month-long journey.
Carve the Mark is a thousand miles away from the Divergent Trilogy. The novel is set in a fantastical universe where a literally flowing entity called the Current surrounds nine unique planets. If you’ve read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, you can imagine the Current as the aurora-borealis-like Aether. Personally, the Current reminded me of the Lifestream in Final Fantasy VII. 😀 Anyways, like the Aether in UTNS, the Current in CTM gives humans supernatural abilities. However, in the case of Cyra Noavek, her gift is more like a curse because it racks her body (and others) with constant pain. The story kicks off when she meets Akos Kereseth, a supposed enemy who can nullify the Current and thereby ease her pain. (Trigger warning for Feminists xD)
From the get go, I want you to know that I wasn’t so hurt or bothered by this book. Thankfully, it did not overwhelm me with angst, hatred, or sadness. If anything, the worst feeling it evoked in me was boredom. The first hundred pages were especially info-dumpy, and I found myself struggling to stay awake. It didn’t help that there were so many side characters with ridiculous names. With that in mind, reading this book required a lot of effort and patience.
My reading experience became somewhat better when I became familiar with the complex world and the author’s quite different writing style (i.e. Cyra’s chapters are in first person, while Akos’s are in third person). I was specifically intrigued by Cyra’s interactions with her villainous brother, Ryzek. In spite of their filial connection, it was clear that they did not love each other at all. As for the romance between Cyra and Akos, I thought that it was reminiscent to that of Divergent‘s Tris and Four. How so? It also happened because of multiple training sessions. Ha-ha. Looking at the bright side, at least what they had was not instalove.
Among the many characters in this book, Cyra was strangely my favorite. I found her very entertaining because she exhibited what I like to call Tris Syndrome. Like Tris, Cyra wasn’t aware of the fine line between bravery and stupidity. Also, she could be selfless to a fault. Basically, Cyra’s uncanny similarity to Tris gave me a feeling of nostalgia, as well as a cynical kind of pleasure. :p
As a final note, I can confirm that this might trigger readers who have suffered from self-harm; There are scenes where the protagonists use heated knives to scar their arms. As for the racism issue, I actually did not detect any kind of discrimination against people of color; not all Shotet are dark-skinned “barbarians,” and not all Thuvesits are pale-skinned “hippies.”
Overall, I am glad that I gave Veronica Roth the benefit of the doubt. Still, I cannot say that this is her finest work. Otherwise, this book wouldn’t have been so controversial.
*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)