BOOK REVIEW: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
So Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, and subsequent short stories in the same universe is back!
There is a lot of hype around this book and so many elements that showed potential. Surely, after the success that was Divergent, this would be good quality at the very least. Right?
Carve the Mark, they’re claiming, is for lovers of Star Wars and Divergent, and is billed as “Science Fiction” first and “Fantasy” second (where the latter is mentioned at all).
But this sci-fi lover and sometimes hesitant fantasy reader really has to wonder where the sci-fi even was.
Sure, there are a couple of science-ish elements, like the spaceship cobbled together from recycled parts, the fact that there is a governing body based on a ship orbiting the sun, and that the Shotet people travel to another planet once a year to scavenge materials to be reused. But that’s it.
Oh, no, wait… They also travel across the planet in hovering vehicles they call floaters (which carries its own set of problems/hilarity).
“Can we get into the floater while it’s still warm?’ Eijeh said, a little bit of a whine in his voice.
The floater eased up the hill, drifting over stony Hessa…
There were floaters everywhere, strips of colored light wrapped around their fat bellies, parked in clusters on the hillside or swarming around the domed roof in search of a touchdown.
But the few space-related scenes are incredibly brief, and everything else in this story is more on the side of fantasy and magic, which is totally fine, but it should really be marketed as such.
There is a somewhat sentient, magical current running through their universe which pretty much everyone believes in.
Everybody knew the Shotet followed the currentstream around space as an act of faith, but until then, Akos hadn’t understood why, except maybe that they felt like they had to. But once you saw this up close, he thought, it was impossible to imagine a life without seeing it again.
Everyone gains a “currentgift” around the age of puberty, each planet has three oracles, and certain people’s fates are predicted at the moment of their birth.
Everyone had a future, but not everyone had a fate – at least, that was what their mom liked to say. Only parts of certain “favored” families got fates, witnessed at the moment of their birth by every oracle on every planet. In unison. When those visions came, their mom said, they could wake her from a sound sleep, they were so forceful.
When the ruler of the Shotet people orders the abduction of two boys from one of the more well-to-do families among the Thuvhesits, the tension grows between the two races and many fates come into play.
Sadly, after the success of her previous series, the execution of this one left a lot to be desired, and what readers are offered is a story with some incredibly questionable pacing, less chemistry than the author’s previous works, a whole lot of interesting elements without much worldbuilding or any kind of passion, and some rather obvious plot-holes that seem to have been left in for convenience.
The current flows through everything and everyone, hence the “currentgifts”. One character’s gift is that he disrupts the flow of the current. This means that people who are restricted by their currentgift in some way can experience a certain kind of freedom at his touch, so long as he stays in contact with them. His gift also means that animals that react to people with current running through them don’t react to him. And yet, when he is attacked with a current weapon (a bar that is ringed by current), he is affected by it.
HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?
At one point the characters are travelling to another planet in a big ship. This trip takes them more than a week, possibly two.
At another point, the characters are in a smaller ship travelling a distance that seems to be as much as 2x the distance traveled in the first instance, and they estimate the trip should take a few hours.
HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?
Even taking into account that the bigger ship would take longer to accelerate and decelerate, it shouldn’t be the difference between a few hours and a couple of WEEKS.
It was hard to feel much for the characters, hard to feel invested in their plight, and at times hard to stay awake while reading. Everything was just so slow, and without any kind of real investment in the characters it was hard to keep turning the pages.
In the end, I was left wondering what the whole point of this book was, and I kept waiting for it to do something different and surprise me. I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue on with the duology, but I’m going to give it the good ol’ college try, because interesting things began to happen in the final chapters.
Given that this is a 470 page book, it felt like a full picture of this universe was never formed particularly well, and while there wasn’t anything specific that made me dread returning to the book, there wasn’t really anything to keep me coming back to it, either, and therein lies the disconnect.
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