Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 468
Series: Carve the Mark #1 (Duology)
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

2.50 Stars

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This review is going to be a difficult one. I couldn’t organize my thoughts or come up with a way to phrase them right. In cases like this, I sometimes read other reviews. They help. But this time they didn’t help at all. Most reviews were either positive or negative, not much middle ground. I guess I’ll have to figure this shit out on my own.

Before I get into it though, I’m going to address the controversy about race that’s been going around. I read the book very carefully for any comments on skin colour and I have evidence that it’s not racist. I’ll put that in the end.

The book is set in an alternate universe, in a planetary system where all the planets support lives. One planet is Thuvhe but it’s been divided. There are the Thuvhe and the Shotet. Akos is Thuvhesit, but with Shotet blood, and the son of an oracle. In the beginning, he and his brother are kidnapped by the Shotet. Their father is killed and Akos swears to get his brother back home. Cyra is Shotet royalty but is a prisoner in her own home. She is one of the people in their system who has special abilities. But her ability is more of a curse because it causes her, and anyone she touches, constant pain. The only one unaffected by her curse is Akos, and when they’re forced to interact because of that ability, they have to decide whether they can work together to help each other.

And I know, that’s a big description. But I don’t know how to make it shorter. There are quite a few things to know about the world and how it works, which must give the impression that the world building is really good. Not exactly. The world building is a mess.

You see, for some things we get a lot of details. Like telling us about Shotet beliefs or cultures. But in other cases, there’s nothing. For example, we spend most of the novel in one house/mansion/castle but I still have no clue how big the place is or what it looks like. I know that the Thuvhe and Shotet are divided by a border but no idea how much land they occupy. We don’t know how or why some people have abilities. Also, the Shotet go on this journey around the “galaxy” ever year; but how do so many of them fit in one ship? That’s some serious Noah’s ark shit right there.

Also, when I say “galaxy”, it really means the planetary system. Everyone in the book just insists on calling it “galaxy”. There’s a bullshit explanation for why the Shotet call it that, but why the Thuvhe do it? No clue. Maybe because it sounds cooler?

Moving on to the characters, I liked them. Only two of them were the main focus, obviously, and I think Roth did a good job in developing their individual personalities. The other characters got less focus, some were done well, some not. The villain, Cyra’s brother and the Shotet ruler, I couldn’t get a grip on. On one hand he seemed like a coward only after self-preservation. On the other hand, he was shown to be menacing. You can’t be both.

The pace wasn’t good. It took me half the book to stop falling asleep and even then, sometimes it would pick up, other time fall flat. And the romance, which usually helps make things more interesting, didn’t work. Sure, I was good with their relationship after they’d already fallen in love, there were good moments from that. I just didn’t see how they fell in love. They had less chemistry than Tris and Four. It just happened.

Speaking of the Divergent series, there’s dual POV in this one but Cyra’s is in first-person and Akos’s in third-person. And while I never completely got used to the switching, we all know how well Roth handles dual first-person (Allegiant anyone?). She could’ve gone with just third-person but she writes better in first so this probably seemed like the best option. The writing wasn’t great, intense scenes lacked intensity, Cyra’s constant pain isn’t written well, but it worked. Would’ve worked better if not for the pace and the plot.

The plot is the last thing to talk about. It was, like the world-building, all over the place. Usually in books, we have a overarching plotline. Here, that was Akos wanting to save his brother and Cyra wanting freedom from her brother. Except there were so many fucking tangents and unnecessary shit that if I had to summarize it, I’d have to spend ten minutes just recalling all the little plot lines and arranging them in order.

Lastly, the racism issue. The accusation was that the “savage” Shotet were dark-skinned while the peace-loving Thuvhe were pale-skinned. First of all, not all Shotet are savages. They’re just seen that way by a race of people that despises them (Thuvhe). Also, not all Shotet are dark-skinned. Cyra is, from what I remember, dark-olive-skinned while her brother is pale. These’s even a line about him:

In the bluish light, his skin was so pale he looked like a corpse.

And about two other Shotet:

Women of pale hair and bright eyes.

The Shotet and Thuvhe are not distinguished by color. If they were, wouldn’t Akos have been immediately recognizable as having a Shotet heritage? I don’t know who started these accusations, but they clearly didn’t pay enough attention.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad or unreadable book but it had many flaws. I think one severe editing session could’ve done a lot of good, if only so the plotline could be straightened. Read at the risk or boredom.

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