To some extent I did really enjoy this book, but also I felt pretty ‘meh’ too.
When I think back to everything I’ve heard about this book, the majority of the stuff that comes to mind is pretty negative. I remember having a debate about the controversial issues that arose when Carve the Mark was released with two other colleagues when I worked at Foyles. One of which had already read an advanced review copy and was surprised to hear the allegations, the other had not and took the decision not to read the book. On the other hand, I decided to give it a go, despite the controversies around its narrative and marketing, for three reasons: 1) I was intrigued to find out for myself, 2) It felt important to me to make my own opinion and 3) Before I heard about the controversy, I was genuinely excited for this book from an author who wrote a dystopian series I loved.
There was a lot of potential for this book, especially with Veronica Roth as its writer, which was perhaps part of the problem considering everyone expects something of the calibre of the Divergent series. I wanted the thrilling action, the political background and the overarching love story that I liked about her previous books.
In Carve the Mark, while there was plenty of politics, a vague love story as well as some great action, thrills and surprises at certain points, the ability to hook from the very beginning until the end – as Divergent did – just never happened for me.
I felt a lot was explained in the first couple of chapters leaving very little backstory or detail to be discovered later on (particularly in terms of Cyra), therefore the book fell flat in the middle section and took a while to pick up again. It meant that after knowing everything about the world and the characters, there was nothing intriguing to get me through the book until the final conclusion. I feel a lot of the problems with this book – both with its controversy and my enjoyment of this book – comes from its structure and the sequence of events Roth has chosen.
However, at a lot of moments I did enjoy the book, largely at the beginning and particularly the end few chapters – which were incredible and the kind of writing I wanted the whole way through. I liked the characters, the world building was interesting (I loved the idea of the current) and the plot could have been decent – it was the writing that largely let this book down for me.
I’m disappointed by Carve the Mark in terms of my expectations for the book, for the author and for its marketing, but it did have a couple of glimmers of brilliance showing what this book could have been.
Will I read its sequel? I’m not sure, I don’t feel too invested in this book because the book felt somewhat quite final until the last page, but to some extent I am intrigued by some of the few seeds left unanswered in Carve the Mark.
I give it a 3 out of 5