Tuesday 24 January 2017

Review: Carve the Mark - Veronica Roth

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 favoured 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 Thuvhe, 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.

Carve the Mark Duology:
Carve the Mark
Second book title and release date to be confirmed

Visit Veronica Roth's website for more information

I loved Divergent but after getting accidentally spoiled on the ending of Allegiant I still haven't been able to bring myself to read it so I was a little wary going into Carve the Mark. I like it when authors can make me invested in their characters but I'm not a fan of being emotionally manipulated and it makes me wary of going back for more. I still had high hopes for this new series though, I was expecting a fast paced and fairly action packed story like we got with Divergent and I really wanted to meet new characters I could root for. Unfortunately that's not really what I got and while I liked both Cyra and Akos I found Carve the Mark an incredibly slow read, particularly in the first half. It took me 11 days to finish reading this and I can get through a 1000 page Wheel of Time book in 2-3 days when I give it my full attention! I enjoyed the story just fine when I picked it up (especially in the second half) but it was just one of those books that was very easy to put down and left you with very little urge to go back to it.

I'm not really going to discuss the racism issues this raises or the problems people have had with the way this refers to chronic pain in detail in this review. Those things have already been mentioned by other reviewers who have been able to explain the issues far better than I could but, while I don't think it was intentional on the author's part, I can understand why people have taken issue with the way certain characters were portrayed. The concerns Justina Ireland raised on her blog are hugely important ones and they've definitely made me think about things that I might not have noticed previously, not just in this book but in many others too.

Even if you completely discount those issues I found there were major problems with both the pacing and the world building that stopped this from being an incredible book. I don't think the world building was handled brilliantly, you're thrown in at the deep end and left to struggle your way through and I think too much time was spent on things that weren't important to the story which threw the pacing off. The last third was when things started getting really interesting though and that's the point where I actually found myself excited to see where the story might end up going so because of that I'm pretty sure I'll be picking up the second book to give this series another chance. I'm hoping that now we're more familiar with the world and the pace has picked up the sequel will hold my attention better.

On the positive side I can say I liked both of the main characters and I though the idea of people all having different current gifts was an interesting (if not unique) one. It was nice to see a gender reversal in the way Cyra was the more bloodthirsty of the two while Akos was much more gentle and less eager to fight. Both characters are well developed and have their own motivations for doing things, on the surface they are opposites in everything from upbringing to personality type but they have more in common than you might think. Cyra's gift has kept her isolated from the people around her, she can't touch anyone without both causing and feeling pain and her brother has used her gift to torture his enemies so she thinks of herself as a horrible person. Akos' current gift negates hers though and for the first time Cyra is able to feel relief from her constant pain and spend time with someone else. She already hated her brother for the way he treats people but Akos shows her that not all families are like hers and he gives her an idea of what life could be like if she escaped. Cyra has a tough outer shell and pretends not to care about anything other than herself but that's not completely true and we gradually see her attitude change throughout the story.

Akos may be a pacifist at heart but he will do whatever it takes to save his brother no matter how much it costs him. He's a very selfless character and he has a great sense of right and wrong but he will bend the rules when he needs to. He is automatically prejudiced against Cyra due to the circumstances in which they meet but even when he has good reason to hate her and her family he isn't blind to the good side of her. I liked the way these two got to know each other slowly and that the experiences they shared together changed them both equally. This is a rare case of a slow build romance and I enjoyed it all the more because of that.

Carve the Mark may not have hooked me quite as much as Divergent did but the second half far outdid the first and it left me wanting to know what's next for both Cyra and Akos so I'm hopeful for the sequel.

Source: Received from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review

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