A review by erebus53
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

adventurous challenging dark emotional mysterious sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I picked this up as a title from the author of Divergent, which I enjoyed, and Arch-Conspirator that I had my reservations about. This story didn't quite grab me as much as I wanted it to.

People are spread throughout the galaxy and there is a shining glowy plasma trail thing in space that changes colour and is somehow linked to some augmentative gifts that the people acquire as they come of age. These gifts seem to be a honing of internal predispositions and are adaptive to each person, often in response to a meaningful event in their lives. In traumatic situations sometimes these gifts awaken early to protect those who are in trouble. The two main characters have strange gifts, one who feels chronic pain and inflicts it on others by touch, and one who stops the flow of the Current that bestows the gifts, stopping a persons powers while he is in contact with them.

The world building in this is pretty cool but I think the story telling falls a little flat. I am a proponent of good prophesy stories (I've said this often) and this story is pinned on certain players who are "Fated" to do certain things. The prophets have an ability to see into the multiplicity of futures, and those Fated are the ones who seem to turn out always at the same point, no matter what path is taken. It does baffle me however that the main antagonist wants to fly in the face of his fate, demonstrating a willingness to believe that such fates can be averted, and yet, he basically sets up his sister to have plenty of opportunity to lean into hers, despite it not being in his best interest.. why would you write a story like that?  If you are worried about your sister Defecting, why would you buddy her up with a refugee-slave from the other side? This characters is supposed to be wily and not shortsighted.

Blah fights.. my other Thing is not liking fights, and there are too many. Too much bodily defacement, and even in the horrific violence, not enough realism for me to even engage with it. It's a bit sad.
CW: there is a lot of stimulant use, poisoning, and things so if that's not your bag, then read something else.

I like some of the twisty plots, oppression and resistance, but some of the race memory of language, secret genealogy,  blood lines, just feels a bit too magicky.. this semi-magical semi-scifi .. it doesn't really cohere for me. When I think about it that's a little weird because I liked the bloodlines and inheritance stuff in Legendborn, but this left me cold.

Lots of focus on killing, grief, and cutting tattoos into flesh to remember loss.. just feels a bit.. emo.

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