A review by jillselwyn
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth



Veronica Roth has done it again. I've read her novels in admittedly, a bit of an odd order. I believe many that stayed reading her novels after the conclusion of the Divergent books likely then read this duology, and then moved onto her adult books. I of course started with Divergent in 2012 at eleven years old (will be doing a reread in the near future), read the whole series, and then while I owned both Carve the Mark and The Fates Divide, I didn't read either of them. The next book I read was her debut Adult novel: The Chosen Ones, then the rest of her adult books that I knew about, and now we're here.

I think that had I read this when I initially got it, at 16 years old, I would not have enjoyed it or appreciated it as much as I did. The morally grey character that Cyra is, nor the layers and political conversations and complexity. At that age I had yet to read a single space opera. Now, in 2023, I've read one adult space opera stand alone, (Some Desperate Glory) and while there are always differences between any two novels, in any given genre or sub-genre, there is a reason that space operas are their own sub-genre of the overarching Science Fiction genre. In that way, I knew a little bit of what I could expect to see, so I wasn't going in truly blind.

This novel expertly combined both first and third person perspectives, depending on the character. While I don't know why Veronica Roth chose to give Cyra a first person perspective, and Akos a third person perspective (it could be as simple as it being easier for her to write in the male perspective if writing from a distance, or there could be a deeper reason that is unknown), this felt like the perfect balance of being pulled in close to Cyra for a set amount of pages, then switching over to the more distantly written chapters in Akos' perspective. Cyra's chapters feel more personable, casual, whereas Akos' almost seem more mature and somewhat more professional and certainly closed off.

Unsurprisingly, there are a handful of witty and laugh-out-loud lines. In the Divergent series, one of my favorites was in Insurgent: "'Got that gun?' Peter says to Tobias. 'No,' says Tobias. 'I figured I would shoot the bullets out of my nostrils, so I left it upstairs,'" and again in Chosen Ones: "'Indoor voices, please,' Sloane called out. 'Slo's gonna vom.' 'And what? If we're too loud we'll miss it?' Ines said, raising an eyebrow. 'Yes,' Sloan said. 'I require an audience.'" So thankfully Carve the Mark is not an exception to the witty one liners with my favorite being:

"'Was he actually a child, or did he just sort of appear one day as a fully grown adult, full of angst?'"

With an interesting blend of fantasy-esque elements in a space opera science fiction novel, I was hooked by the immediate non-info dumping world building and stayed for everything else. I truly look forward to picking up The Fates Divide in April.