Saturday, January 28, 2017

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Divergent Wars: One Force will define you.

Curious (and polite) people kept asking me if I was enjoying CARVE THE MARK while I was reading it. For the flippant response to that question, please refer to the opening of the song "Nobody But Me" by The Human Beinz. Or, you know, check out my star rating. (But my way is more fun, and you get a fun song out of it, too!)

I was one of the few people who did not like DIVERGENT. Part of that was the world-building that didn't make sense, and part of that was what I perceived as jarring anti-intellectualism. You might say I'm being oversensitive. Maybe. Or maybe the author's choice to make the intellectual faction into what were basically a bunch of fascists did not sit well with me. And no, I'm not just saying that because I scored as "erudite" in that stupid faction quiz. (Well, mostly. *sniff, sniff* I'm not a fascist!)

When I heard that Roth was penning a new series of books, I was skeptical. Especially when it was being blurbed as a cross between Star Wars and DIVERGENT. I liked one of those things very much, but would space opera and the compelling promise of vengeance and battles be enough to compensate for the DIVERGENT similarities? And, more importantly, how would her style evolve? Or would it be more BS about smart people wrecking society and brave people jumping out of trains?

CARVE THE MARK is a very weird book - and, to its credit, is a very different story from DIVERGENT. It's about the Thuhve, a "peace-loving" people, and the Shotet, an opportunistic and war-like people who are ruled by a "tyrant" and who carve marks denoting their kills into their forearms. Akos, the Thuhvian, is taken capture by the Shotet's ruler, Rhyzek, along with his brother, because his brother has the power of prophecy. Cyra is Rhyzek's sister, and has the ability to cause people incredible pain - or even death - upon physical contact. Rhyzek uses her to do his dirty work and to put fear into his people.

The power source in this book is something called the "current," which from what I gathered is like a cross between the "Lifestream" in Final Fantasy VII and the Force in Star Wars. It's a physical thing of immense power that people can draw upon, creating "currentblades" (e.g. lightsabers) and being born with "currentgifts" (e.g. the Force) that manifest in different ways to do different things.

Okay, cool. A little derivative, but hey, super powers aren't exactly a novel concept, and I'm always down to read about them if done well. What's 100% original these days, anyway? Exactly.

But I could not get into CARVE THE MARK at all. It felt very amateurish. It was too long, and the characters were not developed at all. At least Tris had some emotional complexity to her and the romance between Four and Tris was compelling (and arguably the best part of the story). On the other hand, the romance between Cyra and Akos has zero chemistry, and when they start talking about being in love with each other it comes totally out of left field because, again, zero evidence for it (that I perceived - by that point, I was skimming pretty heavily, and I may have missed a telltale "clue").

CARVE THE MARK read like a very bad debut for me, with shoddy world building, a cliche and cowardly villain, and two heroes who don't really have any interesting personality traits or conflicts. I'm honestly shocked by how unpleasant the experience of reading this was, and if I had read this without knowing who the author was, I might have thought that this was a cleaned-up self-published effort or a debut tentatively put forth by a first-time (and very young) author.

I'm honestly disappointed because I love space opera - it's one of my favorite genres - and I was hoping to see a mainstream author write a glowing example of it, because if space opera boomed like the dystopian genre did in the late 2000s, I'd be one happy gal.

Maybe it will, but let's not make this book the poster child for the movement.

1 out of 5 stars


  1. I read Divergent when I was still in high school and I always wondered by the heck Tris would want to join Dauntless when you had a whole faction with SCIENCE and cool stuff :/

    1. Right? The erudite got to read in the library as part of their training. I'd much rather do that than train-jumping!