Sometimes a book gets carried away in its own hype – Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, for example, has been a smash-hit sensation with teenagers over the past six months for unfathomable reasons. I’ve avoided it for that exact same reason, although today I caved and bought a copy. The only reason I did this? Because of its popularity. Because every 14-year-old girl I serve wants this book so badly, it’s made me want it too.
But sometimes, this social algorithm fails, like in the case of Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve the Mark. Her earlier books were smash hits, almost everybody has heard of the Divergent series (if you haven’t, I would recommend them. They’re like The Hunger Games on a PG-13 rating) – from this, you’d expect that her new book would sell well. It surprised me that from the second it was released, it was on half-price offer in my store. It surprised me that no real publicity was done to promote the book’s release. But what really surprised me was how poorly this book sold. I can’t speak for more than my one book-store where I work, although I get the feeling that the story is similar across the board, but we’ve barely sold a copy per week of Carve the Mark.
I’ll admit that it’s slow going when you first pick it up. This is due to the complex world-building needed to place the novel within its context. I’d say there’s just the right amount of these slower, explanation-style chapters. Some of the details, though, are irrelevant. Thinking about it, I’m fairly sure one out of the two main ‘races’ in the novel has dark-blue skin, but never was this remotely relevant to the plot, nor was it mentioned more than a couple of times. The way the characters viewed themselves was more what formed my opinions of their appearances. As it’s ultimately a story of love triumphing over adversity, perhaps understandably, looks don’t matter all that much.
Looking at other people’s online reviews, I found the general consensus to be wholly different to my opinion. Most people consider the Divergent series to be Roth’s better work, although I truly felt that Carve the Mark was a coming-of-age-esque novel, in terms of Roth’s literary talent. As a starting point alone, her characters in this novel are far more complex and believable than the ones from her earlier trilogy. You like them, you understand them, and you are rooting for them throughout. If I’m being totally honest, Tris and Four’s relationship in Divergent et al. annoyed me frequently – I felt as if they were based on Bella and Edward Cullen, so strong was their happily-ever-after vibe. The love between Cyra and Akos, Carve the Mark’s two main protagonists, feels more real, more mature. Perhaps I’m coming at this from the point of view of a 24-year-old woman who knows that love is not perfect. Perhaps I’m just cynical. Either way, this book is a beautifully rich and articulate tapestry of words, and I would recommend it to anybody and everybody. Not to mention that the cliff-hanger at the end is heart-stoppingly good.
Set in a world where everybody inherits a currentgift, a magical power that is an extension of their personality, Cyra and Akos discover that their gifts almost seem to mirror each other, allowing them to co-exist together in a way that they cannot with others. However, they are from two opposing races and historically destined to despise each other. Add to the mix the fact that both of them have fates that they cannot escape, foreseen by the three oracles of their planet, and they soon realise that their paths may be more interlinked than they ever could have guessed. In essence, this is a story about realising who you are, and who you are not – and the lengths you would go to in order to protect someone you love.