Series: Carve the Mark #1
In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.
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 the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?
Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.
3.5 Drink Me Potions
Carve the Mark is one of those books that’s left me with a variety of emotions upon completion. Like a rollercoaster ride, the slow ascend into the unknown drove me crazy, but the quick drop left me breathless trying to catch up with everything that’s happened.
I get that some reviewers think the beginning was ridiculously hard to understand. I will say that Roth isn’t the type of author who wastes time explaining bit by bit of the complex world that she’s created. You just gotta slowly go over what she has said in the context that she put it in and try to piece together an image of the scene. I found knowing beforehand that the world could be confusing, lasting approximately the first 100 pages, really helped me take it slow in the beginning so that it would make better sense as I went along. And frankly, I didn’t find the first 100 pages all that bad with that mindset in place.
I have mixed feelings when it comes to this novel. It’s very different from Roth’s previous works, which hardly anyone cannot know at this point with her works being made into major movies. But I felt it still had the makings of a good read. I will try to dissect my feelings into what was positive and what was…less than positive.
Positives on the novel:
– The world building was absolutely stunning. Even if it can get confusing for some, you can’t argue that she thought a lot about how things worked amongst the different cultures and the different planets in this little solar system. With the main story focusing on the planet Thuvhe, there are 2 groups of people fighting for this land throughout history. Technically this planet as seen by the governing body ruling this solar system to belong to the Thuvhesites (hence the official name of the planet), but Shotet nation wants to gain recognition and get this land too. Each group, and even each culture from the other planets in this galaxy, have different views on spirituality and religion. But at the centre of this world is something called a currentstream, which apparently gives life to everything.
There are also currentgifts that each individual grows into as they age. I kinda think of them as some sort of magical abilities. But it’s through this current that lives in each person that determines how its power is uniquely molded by each wielder. In a way, this concept seems like something I’ve seen before, yet there is something still innately unique about it in my opinion.
– Aside from well-thought world building, which honestly sets the foundation of a whole series, the nature of the protagonists was right. We get to follow both Cyra and Akos’ POVs. Oddly enough, Cyra’s is in first person and Akos’ is always in 3rd. I don’t know why this was the way but it makes me feel closer to Cyra sometimes. Enemies by birth yet their circumstances draw them closer, as their fates have said. Maybe it sounds a bit like a Romeo/Juliet thing, but it’s really not. Cyra isn’t as bad as her preceding reputation makes her out to be. She didn’t ask for her currentgift to be pain, both for herself and for anyone who touches her. And Akos isn’t the pure little hero come to redeem the girl born in a tyrant’s family either. They both required redemption, and had to find their own way of achieving what they each wanted. Neither was necessarily better than the other. Everyone made choices they had to make in the moment and sometimes those that turned out to be mistakes haunted them long afterwards.
Anyway, there’s a lot that can be said about these two. There’s no one else we get to know as well as them. There may be plenty of secondary characters but it’s their hearts that we learn to understand. And before you get all twisted about it, yes, a romance blooms between them over time.
Now, what’d I FEEL exactly about this romance of theirs? Honestly? I felt the minor tidbits of romantic expressions were the right amount. Some people (me included) really love romance to be littered throughout a good fantasy. But sometimes, it shouldn’t be the focus, or even there at all. Roth did a great job with this. It wasn’t instalove. And it wasn’t exactly a slow-burn love either. It was formed through loyalty and a deep friendship. I wouldn’t have necessarily minded if there were even fewer mentions of how they felt for each other as there’s just so many OTHER things to focus on in this first book. Would it be right for Akos and Cyra to have some romantic interlude while they’re running for their lives or soldiers are coming for them? No. I sure hope not.
I believe Roth chose right and Carve the Mark had just the right balance of action and romance so the focus always stayed prioritized on moving forward the very complex plot she had in mind for these characters.
Less than positives:
– With such a strong focus on plot and her world that she created here, sometimes the plot felt long and dragged a little. It didn’t deter me from reading this straight through but sometimes there were more events that were solely meant for world building over furthering the build-up of the plot in this book. While I appreciated learning a bit more about how this world and the other surrounding planets worked, this story definitely was made longer by it. The suspense of what would happen next lulled and occasionally I wanted to just skip ahead to hurry it up.
– There may be many secondary characters, but I don’t always feel very close to them. Most barely spend time with either main character, so we don’t see them too often. It was hard to form any connection with anyone else, and sometimes that’s necessary too.
What’s the overall consensus?
While I enjoyed this ride (as long as it was to finish it), this novel just made me think a lot at the end of the day. It’s not what you would call a light read, and I’m still processing a ton of emotions about it. The world was described well, and I felt like I lived within these pages while I was there, but at the same time, I’m glad for whenever I had a little break from it all. All the scheming, all the mysteries that opened up even more questions at the very end. Care the Mark is one complicated book, but I think it was enjoyable for what it was.
Carve the Mark is nothing like what you may know of author Veronica Roth. This is both good and bad. With a completely new world that’s sometimes confusing but fully immersive to the readers, we take a journey with both Cyra and Akos as they navigate the politics and the fury between two nations vying over one planet. Dealing with big topics such as fighting your own fate and finding your own redemption, it’s one book that made me think more than anything else. Like an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, it may leave you with a mix of feelings both good and bad as you exit. Overall, I’d say it’s a worthwhile book to give a shot as it has plenty to offer and I do believe the sequel would only bring even more excitement.