Book Reviews

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Summary from Goodreads: 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 ctmvulnerable 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.

Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series

I really wanted to give this book a shot because I really enjoyed the Divergent series. I know most people gave up on Roth after Allegiant, but I personally enjoyed the ending. I didn’t see it coming and it completely wrecked me. Now what the movies have done to the books…. Well, let’s not talk about that.

Let’s start by acknowledging the obvious. Carve the Mark is riddled with problematic themes. From a racial standpoint, this book takes on goes down the “white savior/dark skinned savages” path. I have read a lot of commentary regarding this (both agreeing and disagreeing), and I can truthfully admit that if this wouldn’t have been pointed out to be before I started reading, I wouldn’t have noticed. One of the major reasons I wanted to read this book after hearing how problematic it is was so I could read what has been identified as a racist theme and use that information going forward when I read other books.

Another critique is that CtM also glorifies chronic pain. Cyra, one of the main characters, has a currentgift which is given to her by the universe when she reaches a certain age. Because of some spoilery events, she gets her gift early and the way it manifests is hurtful to both her and those who try to touch her. Cyra is constantly in pain and has to take strong painkillers to function in social situations. If I would have read the book first, I probably would have argued that the author was trying to show that Cyra has been made stronger by her “gift” because it is something she is forced to live with every day; however, after reading an interview Veronica Roth did with NPR where she admits that she wrote Cyra based on friends of hers that are chronic pain sufferers. Cyra is given this supernatural gift that defines her as a person, and she should be thankful for it because of the strength it gives her. Then I read reactions from the disabled community that were outraged that, number one, Roth uses chronic pain as an opportunity to cash in instead of  educating. I think besides calling the pain a gift, one of the biggest problems is with this is that there aren’t many books that feature a main character that has a disability or suffers constantly and still is the main character. The only one that comes to mind at the moment is Kaz from the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo. He is disabled from a leg injury and has to walk with a cane. Bardugo writes Kaz as a bad ass and doesn’t objectify his disability. It is part of who he is and nothing more. He suffers silently, but being disabled doesn’t define him. He is a man that is disabled instead of a disabled man. I think Cyra’s character was a huge missed opportunity.

I have gotten some comments on how could I be reading this book after I knew it was problematic. Like I stated above, I wanted to read the book so I could identify the themes and use it to learn going forward in future books. The other reason I wanted to read it, and I realize this may not be a popular opinion, is that I disagree that you shouldn’t be able to read a book because others find it controversial. If I would have read CtM and liked the story, writing, characters, whatever while also acknowledging the problematic themes, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. There is a mentality in the book community lately that if one person or one group finds issue with a book, the rest of the community should also shun it.  This is something I completely disagree with since everyone comes from different backgrounds and different walks of life which colors their way of thinking.

Unfortunately, CtM had no redeeming qualities and I found myself bored. A large portion of the book was info dumping. The universe that Roth creates is HUGE. Every time I found myself just starting to understand one planet and race, she would mention another. I found it very confusing and off-putting. The writing wasn’t familiar to the Divergent series, which for some would be considered a plus since it shows her maturity. This book marks my first DNF of the year. It took me over five days to get to page 80 which is a big red flag that I needed to break up with this book. I think the bottom line is that Carve the Mark was not for me. I tried reading it and giving it a chance, but with no redeeming qualities and also so many problematic themes, I would rather spend my time reading an author whose books are less questionable and more inclusive.

1 star

-Leah

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