Carve the Mark is a finely written sci-fi novel, with beautifully drawn characters and a love story at its heart that is sure to give you all the feels!
Synopsis from 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 this 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.
I have so much to say about this book. I wasn’t sure I would like it, not being a reader (or watcher) of sci-fi but Roth’s book held my untrained sci-fi hand and guided me with ease through her world (and galaxy). This book is just beautiful! The prose is so crisp and even poetic at times in its restrained sparseness and the characters are so well conceived and their inner and physical journeys allows us to see their development in really organic ways. I feel like Roth has done us a service to allow time for her characters to react to their struggles and, in the case of the blossoming romance between Akos and Cyra, a love story that feels organic and true. A lot of the time, love story subplots can feel rushed and inauthentic. Not so with this book which has oodles of political intrigue and suspense taking the foreground.
It is clear that Roth learned a lot from writing her bestselling Divergent series and here with Carve the Mark we are seeing her at her absolute best. Some will complain about narrative pace. I think the wait is absolutely necessary (for plot and character development) and serves to yield a powerhouse second half of the book. Persist and you will not be disappointed. Engaging, totally immersive and so well written I was at times gasping at the absolute beauty of her prose. As in this incredible section of story:
We didn’t quite know how to fit together, lips too wet, teeth where they didn’t belong. But that was all right; we tried again, and this time it was like the spark that came from friction, a jolt of energy through my body…I pressed into him, feeling the rough stairwell wall against my hands, and his quick, hot breaths against my neck. I had wondered, I had wondered what it was like to go through life without feeling pain, but this was not the absence of pain I had always craved, it was the opposite, it was pure sensation. Soft, warm, aching, heavy, everything, everything (288).
Cyra narrates the above passage; a young woman whose brother, Ryzek has used her as his weapon for Cyra’s currentgift (manifesting usually in adolescence) is pain – severe bodily pain shown in the shadows that creep along her arms, her face, her back. Everywhere. She has the ability to force this pain into other people and this is why she is her brother’s favoured weapon and why the Shotet people are so afraid of her.
Trapped in service to her brother (for he knows her dark secret) Cyra has turned within – unable to trust herself or anyone else for true companionship (whether friendship or otherwise). When Akos, a young man from the other side of their planet arrives, a captive of her brother’s, Akos is gifted to Cyra to help take away her pain. Akos’s gift disrupts the current and stills her shadows. Through each other, they learn more about themselves and the unjust ruling of Cyra’s brother. Intent on freeing Akos’s brother from Ryzek’s control, together they must enlist the help of renegades but not without putting their own lives at risk.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and await the next instalment with anticipation!