“Divergent” author offers up new adventures

Carve the Mark book review

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Photo courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Jackie Martinusen, Staff Writer

In a world ruled by fate and riddled with conflict, can two teens from opposing nations learn to work together or will they succumb to the status quo and rip each other apart?

“Carve the Mark” is a young adult science fiction novel, written by Veronica Roth, that explores this scenario with depth and sensitivity. It is the first book of the duology. The first novel was released on January 17, 2017 and the sequel, “The Fates Divide,” came out on April 10, 2018.

Carve the Mark follows the lives of Cyra Noavek, who is Shotet, and Akos Kereseth, who is Thuvhe. The pair is thrown together by fate – well, kidnapping really, but who’s keeping track. The Shotet and Thuvhe people share the same planet, but they are in constant conflict with each other. In their world, the “current” flows through everything and gives people powers. Cyra has the power to inflict pain on other people, but it also attacks her, thus her life has an added level of difficulty. Gradually, Cyra discovers that Akos can help her ease pain, opening up a willingness for the two to transcend their opposing cultures conflicts and find compassion admidst the chaos.

The two teens eventually realize that if they work together, they might make their world a better place. However, this realization doesn’t come easily. Cyra’s brother, Ryzek, who is the tyrant leader of the Shotet people, instigates ongoing conflict and tension between Cyra and Akos. Based on the fact that her brother rules harshly, Cyra’s world is rougher than the one Akos is used to. He has to adapt from his more passive regimented life he lived when he was with his Thuvhe people to this new, hard way of life in order to survive with the Noaveks. Despite their differences, these two characters are drawn towards each other, not only due to their obvious attraction, but because of the surprising insights they afford each other in regard to culture, politics, ethics and simply, how to find truth and happiness in a world riddled by conflict.

Author Veronica Roth is known for her iconic characters. Her smash hit book and film series, “Divergent”, features personas that most young adult readers can identify and discuss in detail. “Carve the Mark” is no exception. Cyra and Akos are so charismatic that they make the reader want to continue reading in order to simply see what will happen to them. Cyra is a strong female character who doesn’t want anyone telling her what to do despite her physical challenges. Roth mentions in the novel’s author’s note that Cyra is a representation of “all the women I [Roth] know who suffer from chronic pain,” which exemplifies a primary reasons why Cyra is such an inspirational female character in teen fiction. She illustrates how those who live with unavoidable suffering can overcome with personal strength and the ability to accept support from others.

Akos has many quirky attributes that make him both real and enticing to readers. Those qualities stand out when he is surrounded by only Shotet. Nothing is wrong with Akos, he simply needs to find peers who are open and appreciative of his unique capabilities. When the two characters are together, their two cultures blend and compliment each other, suggesting that only intentional resistance and ignorance keeps diverse societies apart.

Roth also develops a world that is so nuanced and alluring that just exploring the cultures in this novel is engaging. For example, being that both the Shotet people and the Thuvhe people share the a simliar geographical location, so you would assume their cultures would be more aligned. However Roth does an incredible job making each culture’s ideology justifiable, sympathetic and believable. There are no two-dimensional evil forces here. The Shotet culture is a little newer, rougher, and more technologically astute than that of the Thuvhe, who are an older nation with deeply-rooted, traditions. In a sense, Roth taps into the common literary theme of “traditional vs. modern,” pointing out both the weaknesses and the strengths of each civilization, while developing more fully-wrought characters than she did in “Divergent.”

Although I found myself drawn into this world through its characters, Roth utilized one of the major plot twists that has already run it’s course in the “Divergent” series. Without spoiling it, if you’ve read her previous work, you’ll find some of the plot developments too predictable. However,  the plot twists in this newest installment will hopefully be new and I cannot wait to see what fresh complications Roth will throw at Cyra and Akos next.

“Carve the Mark” offers up incredible characters and an enticing world. I think this might be my favorite Veronica Roth book to date, and would recommend it to fans of the “Divergent” series, science fiction readers, and those who enjoy opposites-attract love stories. If you read it and enjoy it, be sure to check out the next book in the duology, “The Fates Divide.”