Tuesday, July 10, 2018

CARVE THE MARK (Carve the Mark #1) by Veronica Roth

AUTHOR: Veronica Roth -- Website
PUBLISHED: January 17, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
GENRE: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
PAGES: 468
Find it on Goodreads

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 his brother out alive—no matter what the cost.

Then 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.

By nature, I am a stubborn person. Therefore, I can hold a grudge forever. And I thought I could never forgive Veronica Roth for what she did to Tris. So I decided I would never read anything by her again.

But then the opportunity to go to signing with her and hear her speak and learn about her newest book came up and my mom REALLY wanted to go. So I decided I would put down my grudge for the night and go have an exciting experience with my mom.

But when it came time to get my books signed and meet Veronica herself, I had to tell her: "I'm still not over Tris and Allegiant. I'm still processing that." And she totally understood and met me with: "I get it, you're still mourning and working through it. A lot of people are." And I decided in that moment that the fact that I was still worked up about a book that came out in 2013 was really a testament to her skills as a writer. She created a book that I'm STILL thinking about, even now. And it also made me have TONS of extra respect for her as a writer to be real with her readers about that and get it.

That night when we got home, I started Carve the Mark -- and though I did struggle a little with getting attached to the characters and my fear that one of the two leading characters would die, I became completely entranced by this novel.

If you go on Goodreads, you'll see a LOT of DNFs (did not finish) and some negative reviews. Here's the truth: It starts kind of slow. But that's because Roth does a terrific job at world building and growing her characters over the course of the novel. But if you really commit to it and decide to push through, you'll be handsomely rewarded because this book is absolutely amazing.

This is where things start to get a little spoilery, so if you don't want to be spoiled, don't read past here.

Carve the Mark focuses on Akos Kereseth, the son of an oracle from Thuvhe, who was ripped away from his parents when his fate -- seen and pronounced by the oracles -- becomes knowledge, but not before he watches his father die at the hands of his captor. Along with him, his brother Eijeh, who promised his dying father he would save from the hands of their Shotet kidnappers. It also focuses on Cyra Noavek, the daughter of former ruler Lazmet Noavek, and sister to Ryzek, ruler of the Shotet people, who is cunning, deceitful, selfish, and bold enough to kill his own father, as legend has it, and take Shotet for himself.

Roth's book is timely. The Shotet are a nation of people without a true home on any planet. You don't have to read this book too carefully to see that some of their in-fighting with the Thuvhe people is not that much different than the lack of peace between the Israeli people and Palestine.

Akos, Eijeh, Shotet heiress Cyra Noavek, and Ryzek Noavek all have currentgifts.

Born to an oracle, Eijeh himself turns out to have the powers of an oracle, though under-developed. Ryzek Noavek, who can touch people and make them see what he wants them to see, does not miss opportunity to seize Eijeh and use him as a political tool, feeding him so many different thoughts and memories that each of their brains nearly become part and parcel to the other.

Cyra Noavek's gift is a pain -- literally. Cyra Noavek can touch anyone and hurt them. She can kill people if she holds onto them for so long and she has. The proof of this runs along her arm -- for every kill a Shotet makes, they carve a mark (hence the title) into their arm, and Cyra has quite the trail of marks.

Akos's skill is very unique in that he cannot be affected by current gifts. Cyra can touch him and he feels no pain and in return, he can touch her and ease her pain, though it doesn't totally goes away. He is, however, a talented chemist who can take advantage of the many ice flowers (especially Hushflower) native to Thuvhe and create concoctions that nearly eliminate her pain. I feel like Severus Snape when I say this, but he can literally brew death if he wanted to.

Akos and Cyra become each other's companions, despite their differences. And both of them HATE Ryzek. They each want to say Eijeh from Ryzek's grasp and develop plans to get him. And that's when things really start to go awry.

This story is gripping and addictive. I won't say that it's an easy read that you can just plow through in a few hours. There's a lot to it and I had to go back and look at things for a second and sometimes third time. But it's totally worth it! The world building in Carve the Mark is phenomenal and the characters are well-conceived and created, each full of personality and bringing something different to the story. The ONLY reason I docked it half a heart it because it IS a little slow at the beginning and I think this phenomenal book lost some readers because of it.

I'm someone who believes that all by itself, Divergent is one of the best examples of a good first book in a series. I still love it, but for me, Carve the Mark is the better of the two first books. It is full and well-developed and one of the most gripping reads of 2018 so far.

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