CARVE THE MARK - by Veronica Roth

CARVE THE MARK - Veronica Roth
Published: 2017 - by Katherine Tegen Books.
Pages: 468.
Genres: Young adult / romance / science fiction / dystopia /
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers SA for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift. Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows. Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost. The Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

DISCLAIMER: This book has been called out for being problematic, including being racist towards members of the indigenous community and to people of North African heritage. It has also been said to be ablest to people who experience chronic pain. Since I do not belong to any of these groups, I cannot comment on these issues. I can only comment on my honest opinions on the book. If you are a member of any of these communities, please be mindful when reading this book and be sure to read reviews from people who belong to these groups. 
- Taken from Emily @ Paperback Princess (with her permission).

I'm not a big Divergent fan. I read the books years ago and only remember being extremely bored. (I'm definitely due for a re-read). But although I didn't have much of an opinion on Roth's writing and I'm not mad on sci-fi, I was drawn to the apparent uniqueness of this book and it's gorgeous cover. If anything, I expected to hate it.
But I ended up loving it.

It's so well written. The writing flows like the currentstream (you have to have read the book to understand that reference ;) and it's just as painful and profound. The start of the book is very confusing and slow, but if you can get past the first 100 pages or so, the rest of the book is thrilling and gripping.
There are boring, slow sections throughout the story. But these are the exception, and it's worth sticking with them to enjoy the brilliantly choreographed action sequences and gorgeous exchanges between the main characters that come next.
It's an incredibly cruel and brutal world. There are awful scenes of torture and gut-wrenching tragedy, and the villains are cold and violent. It's a twisting, unsettling story in many places, but also one full of hope.

I found the world-building and plot lacking. The atmosphere's deathly chilling and creepy, but I felt like all the stuff about the oracles and the currentstream and the way the society worked needed more explaining. More questions needed to be answered.
The plot isn't amazing either. It's hard to follow, and the scenes often jump around; especially towards the start. It's also a tiny bit predictable.

The only thing I can say I actually hate about the book, is how it seems to glorify self-harm. The title gives that away if you think literally, and to read about how Cyra (and during one occasion Akos) uses a knife to cut into her arm to inflict "kill marks" upon herself whenever she kills someone - as a punishment - just doesn't sit well with me. It's unsettling, but more importantly I think it's glorifying self-harm.
“Soft hearts make the universe worth living in.”
“You want to see people as extremes. Bad or good, trustworthy or not. I understand. It's easier that way. But that isn't how people work.”
“This body had carried me through a hard life. It looked exactly the way it was supposed to.”

The characters carry the book more than anything else. Cyra, Akos and Ryzek are vivid and compelling, and I loved the depth of Cyra and Akos. They're an amazing hero and heroine, contrasting each other perfectly and each with the right amount of brokenness, bravery, and depth. I loved Cyra more than anything else; she's so compelling and clever, and is the perfect example of someone most people tend to underestimate.
I loved all the family dynamics. They're gut-wrenching, shocking, and Ryzek and Cyra's relationship is horrific, but I personally love family drama and conflict and this book does an excellent job of portraying both the good and the bad of a family - especially the complicated relationships between siblings.

The romance is one of the best romances I've read in a long time. It's a gentle slow-burn, a meeting of equals who mutually respect each other, and it's more about relationship than kissing and physical intimacy. Although...the physical romance scenes are so beautiful and swoony and hot, as well - in the most natural, gentle, loving way ever.

Carve the Mark is a thrilling, engrossing story heated with gut-wrenching tragedy, pounding action, and irresistible romance. The plot and world-building aren't great, but the characters more than make up for it.