Carve the Mark-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

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.

Divergent Series–Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth has recently become a rather popular motion picture event, but the question is, should you read the books?

Individual Rating: Divergent 4.5/5

Let’s start with book one, Divergent. To be honest, I flew through the entire book one and book two, but I staggered off and had a hard time finishing book three. So book one is actually rather interesting. The reader is set up with Beatrice Prior, the protagonist of the novel whose point of view you are presented with. The society is dystopian, an alternate future of the United States. While that is not quite clear until sometime later, to put the world of Divergent into context, the setting is meant to be what was once the great city of Chicago. Now, this society is split into what are called Factions: Dauntless, Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, and Amity. Being the type of reader that I am, I looked up all these words, and low and behold, each faction constitutes people of that particular nature–unless the person is divergent. The leader of Erudite, the scientific and mathematical faction, finds divergence to be a threat to the society that they have built. Book one mostly focuses on Beatrice (Tris) and her fight to become a Dauntless, also focusing on the romantic interest of Four. That is all this book is: becoming Dauntless, finding romance, and then the big whammy at the end: the world Tris and Four knows explodes into the world of nonexistence.

Individual Rating: Insurgent 3.5/5

Book two, Insurgent, I find not quite as interesting as book one. Once again, the entire book is presented in Tris’s point of view. This time, they are hiding from the clutches of Erudite, who are seeking to destroy the divergent’s to keep their society in order….or to maintain power, either one. A war between the remaining factions and the factionless, led by Four’s mother, ensues. There’s not much more to this book, really. Events are bland. Tris eventually gives herself over to Erudite, the Romeo and Juliet cliche is used to fake her death, and then Four saves her. In the end, they leave the city to find out what is out there based on information her mother was hiding from their society, information such as their whole city was an experiment. Okay, that sound’s interesting and all, but when you read it, it’s really bland.

Individual Rating: Allegiant 3/5

Book three, Allegiant, is a giant textbook of genetics and biology, and as predicted, the movie was absolute garbage. It didn’t even end the way the book ended, which was a major disappointment. They tried, they really did, but by the third movie, I didn’t really care about the characters anymore because there was no more character building. The last of that really stopped in the second book.

SPOILERS FOR ALLEGIANT 

So basically, the crew finds the facility that is dedicated to fixing the genetics of the United States after a great genetic war. This “Purity War” involved some kind of genetic damage which the nation is now trying to fix. Those who had damaged genes were a threat to society, unable to commingle without using violence. Here we learn that Four is not divergent and viable, like Tris, and is therefore useless in the fixing of the United States because he is genetically damaged. The society tests being done around the nation was to bring divergent people to the forefront, to create a future where genes are once again original and unhampered, making divergent’s extremely important to society. Moving forward, Tris dies a rather cliche death that is likewise predictable. In book three, chapters alternate between Four and Tris, which was not done for the first two books. This indicates the author may not have that protagonist to tell the story later. Horrible give away. Roth should have done alternate points of view throughout the series to avoid that immediate giveaway to critical and analytical readers who will notice that sort of thing right away.

So, should you read it? I would say give Divergent a chance and keep going from there if you wish. Like I said, it took me a long time to get through book three, and I absolutely LOVE genetics and such, so that’s saying something. It’s the exposition of the book that really killed the story. Sometimes the death of a main or even a title character is acceptable and worth the sacrifice (Star Wars: Rogue One is a perfect example), but since I could foresee the death of Tris based off of Four having point of view chapters, it was anticlimactic, predicted, and made me feel like reading the series was a waste of time, even though the future was secured for the United States. Basically, you SHOULD read the first book. It really gets you attached to the characters and gets your head around the magnificently created dystopian society, but, read the second and third only if you wish. I would NOT recommend them.

Individual Rating: Four 3/5

A note on Four: Four is a collection of short stories placed in Four’s point of view in places mostly throughout events in the first book. While his point of view was interesting to an extent, it was all predictable information and didn’t really feel like it added to the story. I would suggest skipping out on this one.