OK, I promised you guys some reviews of some of the new books and movies I’m going to be reading/seeing, and it’s high time I made good to you on those promises. I am a girl of my word.
So, predictably, this first review is about Roth’s latest work, “Carve the Mark.” As per usual, there will be a substantial amount of SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, so do NOT READ THIS if you’ve NOT read the book, and do NOT want to be spoiled. You have been warned.
Overall, I think Roth set the bar a little TOO high with her debut trilogy, “The Divergent Trilogy,” because “Carve the Mark,” fell slightly short of, well, HITTING said mark (if you’ll excuse my punniness.). That is not to say that I did not enjoy the story; it’s just not as good as the Divergent trilogy, is all. The story’s atmosphere had a Star Wars-y touch to it, like futuristic tech, planet-hopping while scavenging for useful goods (cough… Rey and jawas… cough…), a cruel dictator who seems to be related to one of the protags, etc. They even have their own version of the Force (no, I am not pulling your chain), called “the current,” that many of the peoples in this universe seem to revere or even worship. All this I can easily appreciate, without acknowledging she might’ve swiped an idea (or two) from George Lucas or even from the author of Shatter Me (my fellow book reviewer and good friend said the two sound quite similar in concept). There was also a predestination theme I thought some of my more Calvinistic friends would be appreciative of; every person in the universe has a specific Fate. Some of the Fates are not as always as they might appear, but they, combined with the current-wielding characters, are ultimately the driving force behind the plot.
So, while I won’t be spoiling EVERYTHING by revealing the WHOLE plot (I’m assuming that you WANT to read this book, if you haven’t already, and don’t mind spoilers by this point), I will be giving insight into what I thought Roth did well/could be improved. Here we gooooo…
Cons/What could have been improved:
- Some of the explanations were a little vague, and hard to follow at times. Sometimes, I would not fully grasp things until a bit later. But maybe that’s just me. It IS, after all, the author’s job to SHOW, not tell. It’s just I think there is the occasional time where they need to be more apparent, more explicit, in their showing. Of course, there are times (such as suggestive scenes) where I am quite satisfied with being spared all the explicitness, and just have a general impression that “such and such” happened, without knowing details. But some things are vital to the story, like organs are to a person’s being. While it may be good to not reveal everything at once, and thus keep your reader reigned in with some sense of mystery and suspense, when a clue about the mystery is dropped, you don’t want to be so vague that it almost entirely goes over their heads (again, maybe I’m just that oblivious, as per usual. But hey, maybe I’m NOT the only one…). Some vagueness is good, as long as it’s not overdone.
- Who’s the real villain? A lot of the time, it’s very obviously shown to be Cyra’s dictatorial older brother, Ryzek. And for the most part, I would agree with that. However, about halfway through, up to the end of the novel, I would also call Sifa, Akos’s mom, pretty manipulative. And not always in a good way. She’s an oracle, and can see all these Fates, all these possible futures, similar to Seth in Ted Dekker’s In the Blink of an Eye. Like Seth, she is able to manipulate people and events by what she does, and what she tells them, to her liking, so whichever future she wants to happen will happen. It makes me wonder if she has an ulterior motive or two in mind, and if Roth is going to write a second book that details that….
3. It moves pretty slowly throughout, with more of the action being placed at the beginning and ends of the book. Granted, this is how a LOT of books roll, so I can’t entirely criticize this; however, I will readily admit that much of the slowness of the plot, especially in the middle, along with some vagueness, genuinely made it tough to keep going, keep trudging through. Granted, now I am very glad I have, but a LOT of the plot twists and climatic point were kind of shoved together at the end, like several atomic bomb droppings that you really, really had no idea were coming, no implication of whatsoever. I mean, yes, you know a certain character *might* die. But that’s really, for the most part, the only real implication you actually get. If spread out slightly more evenly (naturally, you WANT the REALLY gripping stuff for last), it will keep people reading, and less tempted to give up siding in the quest alongside the protags. Keep it rolling, Roth, keep it rolling, and you’ll have us ALL in your snare. You are a talented writer. This is too important for super-slow middles.
Pros/What was done well:
- The romance. As we all know, there has to be a certain degree of romance for me in a good novel that SUPPOSEDLY has a bit of everything in it– what I like to call, “a buffet novel”. Too hot on the romance, and I start to feel sick-ish, like I ate a truckload of Peeps, and feel the need to immediately stop the story and close the novel, to lose the attention the author’s worked so hard to gain. Too cold, too distant, makes me think the romance unbelievable and inauthentic, and just not cut out for the story– in fact, the story, in this instance, may just be better off if the romance WERE cut out, period (and I have a high tolerance for non-romantic stories too, especially if they’re adventure/fantasy.). I have a special, happy medium, sweet-spot that few authors have succeeded in hitting with me. Roth, in this novel, has actually succeeded in hitting that mark, almost exactly. Akos and Cyra meet due to his being captured, and, since his Fate is to serve the family of Noavek (which, now that I think about it, makes for an even BIGGER possible plot twist at the end… #futurebetrayal?), he ends up having to be a servant to her. Now, hear me out, it’s a bit like “Beauty and the Beast”: Cyra’s the kind of cruel captor, and her currentgift is to cause herself and others (when she touches them) pain, via thingies called “currentshadows”. Her brother uses this ability to torture his enemies, etc, but the fact that his sister is incapacitated by it herself (rendering her essentially useless to him) he uses Akos’s currentgift, the ability to stop the flow of current/others’ currentgifts via physical touch, he gives Akos to Cyra as a servant. No, they do not do things together; initially, he is just for pain relief, but since he’s literally the only person she can touch without hurting (as well as her newfound friend and sometimes confidant), their relationship soon blossoms. It’s beautiful, but subtle. And it’s truly remarkable how they work together, how they would do almost anything for each other. Yet, their romance is NOT the main point of the book; it does NOT take it over. This is the one thing CTM does well, in where Divergent failed. Roth is getting better at this part of the writing game. 🙂
2. The currentgifts, and almost anything current-related. Basically half the stuff in this world (spaceships/shuttles included) run on the current. Special talents and powers are gifted through the current; what is interesting is that not all are beneficial. It’s interesting because normally when we think “superpower” we DO think, “beneficial,” like, “Oh, it’d be cool to fly or turn invisible, or have super strength!” We don’t think of the consequences of those powers, such as perhaps setting everything we touch on fire if we’re pyrokinetic, or, in Cyra’s case, causing her and everyone she touches excruciating pain. Roth develops a fascinating idea here. When you give a sculptor clay, they take it, and mold it into something beautiful after playing with it a while. When you give a word artist words and an idea, who knows where they’ll take it.
3. The plot twists. OH MY FREAKING,FLIPPING GOSH, ALL THE PLOT TWISTS AND CONSPIRACIES. Namely at the end, it leaves you drooling for more. Why and how did Lazmet Noavek survive, and if so, why is he no longer on the Noavek throne? What of Cyra’s heritage? Akos’s future loyalties? What does Sifa intend to gain by manipulating the future? Is Isae truly the real chancellor of Thuvhe? What was Orieve Benesit’s currentgift? All these questions, mostly burning in me due to the ending, are causing me to strongly suppose there will be a second installment, and this will not, repeat, will NOT be a standalone story. There is more here than meets the eye.
My rating: Overall, I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Needs a bit of work, but with possible improvements, it could truly be morphed into something great.
http://www.pinterest.com (for “Carve the Mark”)
http://sassynicos.tumblr.com/ (warning: inappropriate content; this is just where I found Ryzek’s pic when on Google Images)