Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
I went into Carve the Mark with so many mixed emotions – and to be honest, that’s how I finished the book as well. I was both interested and weary of this read for so many reasons. Initially, I was torn about a new series by Roth because while I loved the first novel in the Divergent series, I was really disappointed and turned off by the last book in the series. Additionally, this book is pretty controversial on more than one account.
Young Adult author Justina Ireland wrote a post on her blog about aspects of Roth’s world-building techniques that are “vaguely racist,” reinforcing stereotypes and appropriating pieces of Islamic religious practices. Ireland isn’t the only reader to have felt this way and Roth responded to many aspects of their concerns in her own post, explaining her sources of inspiration and negating a few claims while also acknowledging a few aspects she should have been more careful in portraying.
One of the reasons I was excited to read Carve the Mark, is also the second reason it’s controversial. The main character in the book, Cyra, suffers from chronic pain. My dad has chronic pain and I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about what that means, so I was excited to hear that this novel was going to address the issue. Jenny Trout, a writer who has chronic pain, wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post on Roth’s portrayal of it. Trout feels that Roth’s portrayal of chronic pain is meant to “entertain people who want to be allies to the disabled” and takes issue with Cyra’s pain being labeled as a “gift” in the novel.
I wanted to read Carve the Mark, in part, to gather my own thoughts and opinions on these controversial topics. But a few weeks after finishing the novel, I’m still not really sure where I stand. I can understand the arguments both Ireland and Trout are making about the problematic elements of the novel and the impact it had on them, but I can also understand Roth’s intent behind each of these elements and I enjoyed the overall writing style and character arcs, each of them grew and learned something important about themselves and others.
The two groups of people, Thuvhe and Shotet, share a planet but are fiercely divided. In the end, these groups find common ground and compassion for one another once they are able to see things from the other’s point of view. Additionally, Cyra’s “currentgift,” which leaves her with chronic pain, is intentionally a misnomer. Cyra struggles throughout the book not only with ways to live through the pain, but also with what it means, and why she carries this unfair burden when others are blessed with current gifts that are useful. But even though the author’s intent was empathy and acceptance, did she miss the mark? Could the same story have been told and objective achieved without these problematic elements?
If you choose to read this novel, I created a cocktail to sip as you ruminate and philosophize over these important questions and come to your own conclusions.
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.
“You want to see people as extremes. Bad or good, trustworthy or not. I understand. It’s easier that way. But that isn’t how people work.” ― Veronica Roth,
- 1 oz vodka
- 0.5 oz blue curacao
- 4 oz cranberry juice
- Silver sprinkles for the rim
Rim the edge of a martini glass with silver sprinkles. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour cocktail into the glass and contemplate.