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 this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The 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?
Please note that this review contains spoilers.
I was hesitant to read Carve the Mark, if only because I’m still mad about Allegiant. I took Divergent at face-value and liked it for what it was: a book that was born out of the dystopian craze, that didn’t demand much of me, and that was based around a society that wasn’t really structured logically (even within its world), but was nevertheless entertaining. The next two books kind of devolved and became nonsensical, but Allegiant was really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
But this review isn’t about the Divergent series, it’s about Carve the Mark. Let’s move on, shall we? It’s set on a distant planet called Thuve, which is inhabited by the Thuvhesit and Shotet people. They are at war with one another (well, kind of – that wasn’t entirely made clear…) and seem to enjoy kidnapping one another’s children.
As the story is set in space, I went into this thinking it would be an Illuminae/ These Broken Stars-type book. Aside from a few references to the stars, spaceships, and looking at planets from a distance, this really could be set any where, any time. I would’ve liked to see the setting developed a little more, because there really are very few YA/NA novels that I’ve come across that are set in space (which I personally find to be a cool concept), and why bother setting it in space if you’re not going to make use of it? The world-building in general was underdeveloped, so it took me awhile to wrap my head around this world and how it worked. There were multiple planets mentioned, but I couldn’t understand why they were inhabited by different groups of humans, and the planets were often name-dropped once and then never mentioned again. Humans are blessed with “currentgifts” – there is a current that runs through the galaxy – but it is never explained how the current came to be, how it gives people their gifts, or what the currently is, exactly.
If you liked the fast pace of Divergent, please be warned: this one is incredibly slow-moving. Good Lord, the pacing. The beginning is bogged down with back story – Akos’ chapters start when he is fourteen, Cyra’s when she is six – but the back story is something that could’ve cleverly been worked into the story, rather than being tacked on at the beginning. The action is quite sparse – just when you think the pace is picking up, it dies down again. Even at the climax of the story, I was still left feeling underwhelmed.
I would’ve liked to see a villain who is three-dimensional – and there were hints of it there: Ryzek is terrified of pain, he hates Cyra because she was responsible for their mother’s death, he was terrorised by his father – but it wasn’t developed enough. The end was result was a leader who was cruel and brutually violent because he could be. Akos and Cyra are compelling enough protagonists, but nothing to write home about. Of all the characters, I actually enjoyed Isae the most, and would’ve loved to see more of her (here’s hoping she’s a major player in the second book…). Yma, the double-crossing queen that she is, was also another favourite of mine.
This comes down to personal preference, but I also hated that Akos’ chapters were in third person, while Cyra’s were in first person. It pulled me out of the story, although it was one of the only ways in which Cyra and Akos’ voices differed. I just would’ve liked to see more uniformity across the board (all in third, or all in first person).
If you’re expecting something startlingly original or a book that has got a lot of depth to it, this book isn’t going to be the book for you. Is it a perfect book? Definitely not. It did, however, provide me with a few hours of light entertainment on a Saturday afternoon, for whatever that’s worth.
Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.