Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction
Carve the Mark blew me away! At first it was slow and convoluted because there is a lot of information to take in about the world and how it functions, but once that is more clear, the story is interesting, fast-paced, and outstanding! I went into this book not knowing anything about it or what to expect, and it turned out to be one of the best reads of 2017 thus far. The author the the Divergent Series does not disappoint her fans here.
The premise of the story is somewhat complex, but I will try my best to explain: basically there are two groups of people who inhabit the same planet and they are warring with each other. The origin stories for this dispute are different in both societies, so we cannot know which is accurate and which is not. The people of these planets obtain something similar to powers, called “currentgifts,” such as the use of fire or healing. People gain currentgifts from the current stream in their universe when they are around the age where they would go through puberty.
Akos Kereseth is the main male character who obtains the currentgift for interrupting other currentgifts; in other words, he can take them away. He is of the Thuvhe, the northern culture of people inhabiting the planet. When the Shotet people come to take Akos and his brother away, one of them supposedly the new prophet, the violence encourages even more dispute among the people.
Ryzek Noavek, the leader of the Shotet people in the south, believes that if he owns his own prophet (in this case, Akos’s brother), then he can escape his fate or rewrite what the prophet foresees before it happens. Ryzek’s gift is to exchange memories with others, and his hope is to be able to take the prophet’s power away through memory exchange.
When Akos becomes a servant for Cyra Noavek, Ryzek’s sister, the two seemingly hate each other, but their currentgifts are well-paired. Cyra’s currentgift is being in a constant state of nearly chronic pain, pain which she can give to others through touch, and even kill people with it. Since Akos can take currentgifts away, he can help Cyra ease her gift to build her public face for her brother. Because of her gift, Ryzek uses her to torture enemies often, despite how it affects her.
Eventually, Cyra and Akos not only find feelings for each other, but find that they have a common goal: remove (by murdering) Ryzek from power, because he is the one causing the current violence between the two civilizations. Akos also knows his fate: that he will one day die for the Noavek family, but when and how is uncertain, and no one can change their fate.
Overall, this book received a number of mixed reviews and has been called “ableist” and “racist” by many reviewers. While I can see these aspects in the novel, it is the racism and ableism that make the characters and the novel interesting. Basically, Roth is using this science-fiction world to demonstrate issues that we are still struggling with in the world today, issues that may need a bit more light and understanding bestowed upon them.
Despite the mixed reviews, the story is fast-paced (after the large amount of world building and exposition at the beginning of the novel) and has characters that seem to have a sort of Romeo and Juliet type of fate. It is the hardship and tragedy of the characters that make them worth following and growing attached to. It is the hope that they will overcome what fate has written for them, but knowing Roth, Akos and Cyra may yet have a tragic end.
The writing is pretty solid, and I have to say that the only way to really get a feel for what this book has to offer is to pick up a copy and READ IT! I am greatly looking forward to the next one, which I believe will be even better than the first, since the major exposition has been put out in the first novel.
A side note: Why is it called Carve the Mark? Well, every time the Shotet kill someone, people of violence, they carve a mark into their skin and dye it so that everyone knows how many they have killed, and to put those deaths to memory as well.