Carve the Mark: review

November 11, 2016 2016, 2017, fantasy, sci fi or futuristic, sponsored post, Wendy 21 ★★★

Carve the Mark: reviewCarve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 17, 2017
Genres: fantasy, science fiction
Pages: 480 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth's stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not — their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

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 from the peace-loving nation of Thuve, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, 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. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive — or to destroy one another.

This post is sponsored by HarperCollins. This does not affect the content of the review.

Are you ready for this? It’s Veronica Roth’s new book! After bursting on the scene with Divergent, the author experienced meteoric success with her trilogy, which also resulted into some pretty enjoyable films. It’s been 3 years since Allegiant caused an avalanche of tears, so everyone is curious: does Carve the Mark live up to its predecessor?

The short answer is: yes, if you enjoyed Divergent, you will enjoy this. For myself, I liked Carve the Mark overall, though I’m also left with some questions. Which is not unlike the experience I had with Divergent, for what it’s worth.

Carve the Mark

Things I liked:

— The powers are cool. To name a few: Cyra has Rogue-like powers (without that pesky “you can’t touch me” business), Akos can take pain from others, and another guy named Vas feels no pain at all.

— I liked that there’s a bit of a role reversal with Cyra and Akos in general; not only does he have the healing power, but he’s also the gentler, kinder soul of the two of them. She’s been hardened by necessity, though in meeting someone who is her polar opposite, she begins to wonder whether she needs to be resigned to her fate.

— Hushflowers, potion-making, and tea-sipping are among the many small details that I enjoyed. This is scifi that feels like fantasy–or it is it fantasy that feels like scifi? Whatever its categorization, there’s temperature and texture and an organic nature that provides interesting contrast to the technology, and helps to make us feel grounded in an unfamiliar world.

— There are some good action sequences later in the book. A bit more time spent on these chapters would have been nice, but there are still some vividly physical scenes.

— As with Tris, Roth once again creates a heroine who is principled and conflicted. I liked Cyra a lot, and her character’s battle with her conscience forms the heart of the story.

Death is a mercy compared to the agony I have caused.

A few things I think could have been improved:

— The book is 480 pages, and honestly, it feels long and the pacing often feels off. I wanted more detail in some areas and wished for less than others, particularly in the earlier sections of the book as we’re getting to know the world and characters. This was probably the biggest issue for me.

— I’m not entirely sure I understand how this world works. While I appreciate that there isn’t a huge info-dump at the beginning, I think various choices in relaying information (alternating POVs, a long timeline from childhood to adolescence, etc) contributed to obscuring the readers’ grasp on the rules and specifics of this society. After awhile I kind of just stopped asking questions and went with it, and enjoyed the story for what it was. Confusing? Yes. And in a way I think could have been easily fixed.

— The villain should be more interesting. Right now his motivations seem far too simplistic; cruelty always cuts deeper if there are more layers to everyone involved.

— I like the love interest, but I’d like Akos even more if he was a bit more complex.

— I confess to also being impatient with difficult names in SFF, so I struggled a bit in the beginning. Most of the primary people names I was able to remember easily, but mixed with Eijah, Cisi, Osno, Ori, Uzul, (help a girl out by varying the number of syllables and first initials more, please!) on top of a lot of new terminology and customs and Shotet, Thuvhe, Thuvhesit, Kereseths and my eyes begin to cross. Honestly, I was so hung up on navigating all this that I’m a bit worried I’m missing important subtexts and themes. :( But if you’re a more patient and seasoned SFF reader than I am, this might not bother you one bit.

On a positive note, I do think that two things have improved significantly from the Divergent trilogy: the writing has moments of solemn loveliness, and there’s, um, a lot of chemistry between Cyra and Akos. So much so that I had initially had a couple of sigh-worthy scenes marked to share here, but ultimately decided they’d be too spoilery. Suffice to say that this is not a romance-driven book, but there are some nicely satisfying moments of intimacy in it. View Spoiler »

I’m eager to see Cyra’s story arc develop in the next sequel. She’s already begun to look outside herself in this one, so seeing her character develop and her relationships deepen should be even more rewarding.


Are you excited to read Carve the Mark? Only two more months until it’s out!

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A review copy was also provided by the publisher. Quotes are taken from an advance readers copy, and may change upon publication.

21 Responses to “Carve the Mark: review”

  1. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to read this one some day, Wendy. It sounds a little bit like the TV show Heroes… the guy who could take pain from others made me think of that, at least.
    I’m glad you found it to be overall enjoyable, even if it didn’t completely blow you away :)
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Review: Legion – Julie Kagawa

  2. Carina Olsen

    Eee, gorgeous review Wendy :D Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t love this one :( But so happy that you enjoyed it a lot. <3 And eee! KISSES :D I APPROVE. Gosh, I have waited so long for this book. I just hope I will love it, haha :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

  3. Karen

    I had zero interest in reading this Wendy but somehow your lukewarm review has me second thinking it.

    I didn’t like the way she went with things in the Divergent series (& I don’t just mean the end) so I kind of decided to stay away from this but hmmmm….. Cyra sounds interesting.

    Karen @For What It’s Worth

  4. Alissa B

    I admit that I never read any of Roth’s books.

    Shocking, I know. Especially for a Teen Librarian. But for a long time after that heartbreaking disappointment of reading and hating the first Hunger Games book, I avoided anything else that had been so over-hyped it was probably too good to be true. I just…couldn’t. And while this led me to discover many amazing books that slipped under the Majority Radar (like Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series–OMG!), it also caused me to skip over Divergent. I was kind of over the whole Dystopian thing by then anyway. And when I heard the spoilers. Well, what was the point?

    But your review makes Carve The Mark sound amazing, despite the obvious flaws and odd names. I love that it has a sci-fi element. Think I’ll actually give it a try. Thank you :)

  5. A Canadian Girl

    I didn’t bother continuing on with the Divergent series after reading Divergent because of reviews so I was curious about this one. At the same time, just based off the synopsis, it’s not something where I was like I need to read this. The length of this and the fact that you’re still confused by the world makes me think maybe I should pass. I have no time to read a book that feels long and makes no sense with regards to the world, which is a pet peeve of mine in a fantasy novel.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Mini Reviews: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin and Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

  6. Jen Ryland

    Thanks for this – I’m not such a big sci-fi reader and I choose carefully in that genre, no matter who the author is. Based on your review, this sounds like it shares many of the strengths (compelling main characters with good chemistry, good action scenes) and weaknesses (shaky world building and a need for more editorial development) as Divergent. I did really like that book, but was pretty disappointed in the following two. Will have to think about this one – it may be a library request rather than a purchase.
    Jen Ryland recently posted…Just Finished Reading: The Girl in the Picture

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, you’re exactly right–this does share the same general strengths and weaknesses as DIVERGENT, even though it is a very different kind of book. I think mileage is going to vary with CARVE THE MARK, just like it did with DIVERGENT–if you like the characters and the connection between them, I think you’ll be able to look past the stuff that isn’t quite as strong. I know I enjoyed it! But it did require shutting off the “why is this happening again?” part of my brain, and it was after a lot of initial confusion with becoming accustomed to the world. I do think the action was stronger in DIVERGENT, by the way–but I liked these characters more. SO HOPEFULLY THAT’S MADE YOU EVEN MORE CONFLICTED, hah.

      I think it’s worth checking out if you’re curious. Library request is always a good idea; when in doubt and all that. ;)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review

  7. Anisha

    Ooh I’ve requested this as a review copy from the publisher and I’m actually pretty excited for it, even though there are some very mixed reviews about it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, I hope you get it! And that you enjoy it whenever you do get a chance to read it. I wouldn’t worry about mixed reviews so much–it was much the same with DIVERGENT, and I think it’s one of those things where you just won’t know until you try it out for yourself. :)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review

  8. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    AHHH! So this book sounds like just something I would like a lot. The sci-fi/fantasy world that you describe as textured, the action and the opposites attract romance with strong chemistry, especially. SIGN ME UP FOR THAT! But I felt like Roth backhanded a lot of her world building in the last series, because she didn’t do the planning work up front, and her second and third books suffered a lot for that. To that end, your concerns about the world building, worry me. Though honestly, I’m able to forgive a lot if I can connect with the characters. HOWEVER, I know this is probably the worst to say, but I cannot under any circumstances face another ending like Allegiant. I’m glad this is a duet, because it’s less time to wait. And I told myself that I’d wait for it all to end before committing. BUT this review and the way you describe the characters and their connection is making me rethink all that. I WAAANNNT. Thank you for a thoughtful and thorough review.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

    • Wendy Darling

      I don’t disagree that the world-building could have been stronger in DIVERGENT, and it could use further development here, too. I think comfort level with this author’s writing style depends on the type of reader you are–I was telling Keertana below that it’s probably best if she checks out the samples before she commits, as I know she’s a very exacting SFF reader. Me, I don’t necessarily need all my Ts crossed and Is dotted, as long as I think other things are done well and I’m enjoying the story, writing, characters, etc. I think you are this way too, from past experience! I do think you’ll enjoy Akos and Cyra together a whole lot. (I’m smiling knowingly thinking about CERTAIN THINGS.)

      But yes, I understand re: feeling wary since you were so upset by ALLEGIANT. For what it’s worth, I’d be surprised if she did anything like that again so soon, especially since (I believe) she took pains to make this feel so different from her other series. I know ALLEGIANT is still painful for a lot of readers, and perhaps I’ll change my mind once I read it myself, but I do rather admire that she had this destiny in mind for Tris and she just went for it, knowing full well what the consequences would probably be. It’s particularly brave coming from a young, debut author, and it’s partly the reason I was interested in checking this out and am sort of invested in watching her career.

      I’ll be watching to see if/when you pick this up and what you think of it!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review

  9. Lizzy

    Awesome review! To be honest, I read Divergent and then saw a spoiler for the entire trilogy and was so devastated I haven’t ever finished the other two books. Bad reader…but I just couldn’t take it! I might give this one a shot.
    Lizzy recently posted…Sadness

    • Wendy Darling


      And awww, I understand, truly. It’s a shocking thing to have happen, and if I had the time I think it’d be interesting to go through and reread DIVERGENT knowing the endgame, since the author must have had that fate in mind from the beginning. There are side conversations to be had analyzing the themes within the series, too–I’ve read that the author is a devout Christian, and there are paralells to be drawn between Tris’ sacrifice and certain figures.

      But in any case–this new series does feel very different from her previous one. And hopefully she’s not planning on repeating herself…

  10. Sara @ Just Another Story

    Prior to this review, I hadn’t heard a lot about this one. However, I am pretty curious about it. I think I’ll give it a try. I remember liking Divergent, but not the others so much. So this being a duology is intriguing.

    Thanks for the review!
    Sara @ Just Another Story recently posted…October Recap

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, I’m happy to put this one on your radar! I think it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the author or the premise sounds intriguing. I like that it’s a duology, too–more series should be duologies, I think. ;)
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review

  11. Leah

    I never finished the Divergent trilogy (once I saw that spoiler for Allegiant, I couldn’t get back to it). But I am quite excited for this new foray of hers. From what you said, there are some things to look forward to. Thank you for the review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw. I understand being upset over that spoiler, it’s always hard if you have a lot invested in characters you love. I haven’t read ALLEGIANT myself either, though I’d like to check it out sometime.

      CARVE THE MARK definitely feels different from her first series, which I think is a good thing–sometimes authors can get stuck in a rut and it feels like same old, same old, but this definitely does not. I was telling someone on GoodReads that it reminded me a bit of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and THE WINNER’S CURSE trilogy in parts, though I do think those two series were better crafted overall. I really liked that it’s set in space but has a grounded feel to it.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review

  12. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I never even picked up Allegiant, so I’m wary of whether to launch right into this new series or wait to see how it plays out by the end. But, I can never resist steamy kisses and SFF, although I am a little concerned by the confusing/lack of world-building. That’s always one of the most important aspects of any novel, for me, and I’m also a little disappointed the love interest isn’t more complex. But, you have gotten me suitably revved up to read this one–and soon!–so thanks for such a wonderful and honest review, Wendy! Excited for this chemistry to enter my life.. ;)
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

    • Wendy Darling

      Hi Keertana–knowing the kind of SFF reader you are, I would guess you’d probably be more bothered by the world-building than I was, because it’s admittedly a bit confusing. It might be worth checking out the Epic Reads sample, or the first couple of chapters on Amazon when it’s available? I’m hoping that both Akos and the villain show more layers in book two!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Carve the Mark: review