Tuesday, March 21, 2017

{Review & Discussion} Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth


Page Count: 468 Published on: January 17th 2017 
Published by: HarperCollins Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA Source: Print: Hardback Age Rating: YA
Trigger Warning for self harm, racism, and able-ism (READ DISCUSSION BELOW AT YOUR DISCRETION)
Where To Find It: Goodreads // Amazon
Book Depository: {click here}
Twitter: @VeronicaRoth
My Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads synopsis:

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.
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?
Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth's stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

Hey, guys!

I would like to start this review by stating that there are some who consider this book to be very controversial and problematic, and there are also those who do not see it that way. As the whole point of literature is for entertainment and the stimulation of the mind, I believe all literature to be open for interpretation. I am as white as they come and I'm an able-bodied person who's been relatively healthy for the majority of my life. As I've not had to deal with being a person who is a part of the marginalized part of the population, I of course cannot and will not speak for those communities. I will include the other reviews and discussions that I consulted in order to form a well-rounded opinion as well as using my own full opinion. I went into this book knowing of the issues that were being discussed, but I went in with an open mind. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought that the discussion that came from this book just made it even more interesting. My interpretation of the book was quite different from the other more talked about reviews and discussions, so I will link those below as well. 


I honestly enjoyed this book. The controversy behind this book just made me think even harder about the aspects that were seen as problematic. This book is a character driven and I thought it was done really well. I enjoyed the world building that went into this novel. Roth’s world building skills are done well, in my opinion. I think this whole new world was one of my favorite parts of this book. I enjoy it when authors are able to create a completely new world and do it well. Even though, this book had pretty good world building, I would still like a bit more about their oracles. The whole concept of fate is so interesting to me, and I’d love for it to be explained more in the next book. Overall, the world building was done really well, but there are still parts that are a bit foggy to me.

Let’s talk characters. I’m not as connected to the characters as I would like, but I did love how strong the main characters were. Both had a different way of being a strong individual, but they fit so well together. Their overall character progression was naturally done and I enjoyed that very much. Cyra was a bit of an enigma. At first, I had a hard time connecting to her and fully understanding her character. She’s so mysterious and she’s such a deep character. As I got to know her, I started to enjoy her story and I started to root for her. The fact that this book was in dual perspective (and it was done really well!!!) sold these characters for me. I adore their stories and the complexities behind their personalities.

The whole concept of their currentgifts and the whole idea of the current was really interesting to read about. Currentgifts were basically the force mixed with super powers. They can be really influencial or they can destroy a person. Akos has the ability to stop the current and cancel out gifts and Cyra has the ability to cause pain/kill people. She’s also constantly in pain from her currentgift. That’s where the ableism comes into the discussion. I’m not educated enough to comment on that, though….so google it. At first, I was pretty confused about the whole concept, but as the book progressed, it was explained very nicely. I’m interested to see where Roth goes with this.

One of the points I want to get across is that there isn’t a good guy or bad guy group. Everyone has their negative points and everyone has their positive points. As the book develops, the reader really gets a complex look at the politics behind the two nations and the universe as a whole. It’s definitely a science fiction story, but I also saw it as a high fantasy story.

If you enjoy high fantasy/science fiction novels, then this is definitely for you. I would take into consideration that this book has some controversy and some problematic aspects to it, so if you don’t think you can handle anything that may be triggering then I recommend that you forgo this book.


In the beginning of the year, when this book first came out, there were many different conversations that were taking place on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, BookTube, etc. Mainly negative, many very upset by what they had read…Or rather, they were outraged by the information that they were reading about. This outrage over problematic content was first brought to light by the blogger and writer Justine Ireland in her blog post about Carve the Mark and it's harmful trope of "the dark skinned aggressor". This of course, caused a lot of backlash towards Roth's newest book. Readers and activists in the BookTube community soon swarmed to inform every one of the problematic content. 

At first, I wasn't even really interested in reading this book, but then everyone was bouncing different opinions and I genuinely became interested to form my own opinion about this book. Everyone was so invested in banning this book and telling people to not read this book, but I've talked to quite a few people who are actually interested in reading this book now. Veronica Roth actually wrote up a blog post to address the false or misconstrued accusations made about the racist aspects of this book. Let's just break it down a bit. I think Veronica Roth's blog post puts this issue into better terms. She discusses the races of her characters and the worlds she has created. Her blog post really sparked my interest in the thought processes that went into her book.

Shotet is not a culture of dark-skinned individuals. Thuvhe is not a culture of light-skinned individuals. They share a history (discussed on pages 124-129 of the book); they share bloodlines.
~Veronica Roth~

I honestly think that the racist accusations towards this book are false. However, I am white, so I might just be mistaken. Before you think I’m being an asshole, please let me explain. There are so many interesting factors that I feel are being ignored. Veronica Roth put it very nicely in the quote above. While I was reading this book, I didn’t see the Shotet or Thuvhian nations to be all white or all of a black race. From what I gathered, and from what Veronica wrote in her blog post, her universe and her whole world isn’t connected by their race, rather it is connected by their bloodline. That is, I didn’t think the people really were connected in a traditional sense. People just managed to gain the traits that are more prominent in their person. So if someone has a darker father and a white mother then they could end up being any color under the sun. The characters are so diverse and different. I’m not sure if my explanation makes any sense, but that’s how I saw it. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

Let’s just talk about how people are assuming that the Shotet nation and Thuvhe nation are either black or white. Uh….no. Okay let’s just look at some quotes that Veronica Roth mentioned in her blog post. I had marked these in my book as well. I thought these would be beneficial to this review…especially concerning the race issue.


Akos’s Thuvhesit Family:

Cisi: “Dark curly hair framed her face…” (p319) 
“I could tell Cisi’s skin from Isae’s only by its darker shade.” (p385) 
Akos: “He had fair skin, and a kind of wary tension in his body, like he was bracing himself.” (p60) 
Eijeh:  “Eijeh’s eyes were pale green. An unusual color, like iridescent insect wings…against his light brown skin, so like the milky earth of the planet Zold, they almost glowed.” (p64)

Cyra’s Shotet Family

Ryzek: “…his skin was so pale he looked almost like a corpse.” (p60)
Cyra and Ryzek, compared: “I was tall, too, but that was where my physical similarities with my brother ended. It wasn’t uncommon for Shotet siblings to look dissimilar, given how blended our blood was, but we were more distinct than most.” (p61)

These quotes are taken directly from the book, but Roth mentioned them in her blog post as well. I think these are very important to mention, as they show how diverse and how different the whole cast of characters were to each other. Even family members had differing skin colors and their family wasn’t defined by their skin color it was defined by their bloodline. Does this make any sense? This is one of the fantastical elements that I loved about this book.

Veronica Roth also goes into her thought and research process when it comes to the languages that her characters use and what she based it off of and the different religious aspects of the book and where her research led her. If you are concerned about those parts, then I recommend you look into that.

Of course, there are always other perspectives that have to be taken into consideration. Because literature is always open for interpretation, there will always be those who are triggered by certain behaviors in books. Everyone has their own triggers. Someone’s triggers are someone else’s inspiration. Francina goes into depth about that in her Carve The Mark & triggers videos. I recommend you take a few moments of your time to watch them.

Other Videos/Reviews/Resources:

Francina Simone’s Carve the Mark video: {click here}

Francina’s video about triggers: {click here}
Veronica Roth's blog post: {click here}
Sabaa Tahir's Response {click here}

I'm sure there are more reviews and discussions online and on YouTube, so if you'd like to start a conversation then don't hesitate to! I consulted more sources than these, but these were a few of my favorites. 

Happy reading, all!
@LivTheBookNerd on Books

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