- Page Count: 480
- Release Date: January 17, 2017
- My Rating: 3.5 stars
Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not — their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
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 from the peace-loving nation of Thuve, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive — no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive — or to destroy one another.
I don’t feel comfortable supporting this book anymore despite initially enjoying the story. I’m leaving my rating blank & adding this disclaimer after all of the controversy so people can be informed to make their own decision:
My original understanding was that both cultures viewed each other as “savages” and that the Shotet were far more powerful and advanced, but it’s extremely possible that I misunderstood the worldbuilding — you can see in my original review that I was suuuuuper confused. (The worldbuilding was unclear to begin with and then the ARCs had a giant “uncorrected proof” printed diagonally across each page that made it very challenging for me to read/focus on). So I won’t be going back to read this and think it’s sufficient to throw the warning out there that the way race and chronic pain are handled here have upset a lot of people. And I do apologize if my support of this book made you feel disregarded in any way.
On the topic of chronic pain: I’ve been struggling with a chronic illness for the past decade and absolutely identify with the “spoonie” community. I think the interview that Veronica Roth did with NPR was very poorly done, but also surprised me because I didn’t pick up on those misguided messages from the story. I figured Cyra’s pain was more of a “currentgift” instead of an actual literal gift. I mainly appreciated seeing a character in a situation I could understand while watching her grow to realize she doesn’t deserve that pain. And I liked that the pain wasn’t part of some cure narrative but was something she had to keep dealing with. But Roth’s comments in that interview (and Cyra’s journey once seen through that lens) did hurt a lot of fellow readers & friends and I cannot support that.
“You were taught this ritual?” I asked him.
“Carve the mark,” I said, my throat tight.
Ok, let’s just get the whole Divergent comparison out of the way first because I think that’s at the back of everyone’s mind while they’re checking out this book. I really enjoyed Divergent, but thought this was on a whole new level of intense! Veronica Roth’s writing got even better, too. But the stories really are different, so that’s where the comparisons will end.
This story was SO wonderfully creative, emotional, and just super intense all around. Think An Ember in the Ashes buuuut in space? It took me a bit to get the world straight, but I’d much rather have the worldbuilding thrown into the story and figure things out as I go instead of siting through some infodump. So anyways, my understanding was that the planet is called Thuvhe, but the Shotet people don’t call it that. They just use that name for the frozen country of snow and gray and a totally awesome culture that’s on the other side of divide of feathergrass. (But I’m not 100% certain about this so let that illustrate my confusion I guess).
The story is told though two POVs, but one is in first person and the other is in third person. The first person POV is Cyra, a Shotet girl who kind of reminded me of Rogue from X-Men or Juliette from Shatter Me. Cyra can touch someone and pour her pain into them to the point of killing them, so she’s been raised as a sort of instrument of torture that her brother uses to keep power. She views herself as a monster, but is very matter-of-fact about it and doesn’t pity herself. She’s also a total badass who’s been trained to fight even though she can kill with her touch.
Akos is just the most wonderful, kind, adorable guy (ok, he’s actually super fierce) who reminded me a lot of Elias from An Ember in the Ashes! He’s from the frozen snowy world in the north, but he and his brother are captured by Cyra’s people. Akos initially wants to just get his brother out of there, but things get a whole lot more complicated…
In this story people develop a currentgift and some have a fate that’s predicted by oracles. I don’t want to say a lot about what everyone’s fate is because that’s where the plot gets wonderfully complicated, but I will say that the currentgift that Akos has allows him to touch Cyra and take away her pain without being in any danger himself. After he’s captured by Cyra’s people, he’s a sort of prisoner who lives with her and the whole setup really reminded me of The Winner’s Curse.
There wasn’t too much romance in this book, but the parts that were there were straight up ADORABLE. They seemed more like friends at times, but I just really loved how they were equals and it wasn’t instalove. Cyra shows Akos what a monster she is, but he accepts her and helps her see that she can change. And everything that’s happened to Akos could’ve made him super mean and hopeless, but he still chooses to be kind. Their scenes together were easily my favorite.
They’ve both been shaped by their environments, so their loyalties are tested throughout the story as they take back their own power and choose who they’ll be. I kind of don’t want to say what “Carve the Mark” refers to because it’s pretty powerful when it unfolds in the story. BUT I do want to throw a self-harm trigger warning out there for some readers.
So I know I basically said nothing about the actual plot, but it does get really intense and there are a lot of characters when the renegade/rebel stuff gets going. I didn’t get as strong of an idea of most secondary characters as I wanted to, but I think the sequel will get more into that. They had some pretty unique names, though. Otherwise, the pacing was great and I really appreciated how there was a lot of dialogue and more active showing than passive telling.
I usually like less torture and more romance or lighthearted adventure in my stories, but will admit this was pretty epic. And the cover looks SO DIFFERENT and super emotional when you’ve finished the story. This is definitely going to be one of the top books of 2017, so if you love sci-fi, dystopian, An Ember in the Ashes, The Winner’s Curse, Shatter Me, or basically any YA fantasy set in space, add this to your TBR!
Disclaimers: the quote at the top was taken from an uncorrected ARC and could totally change after the release of the finished book. This post was sponsored by HarperCollins and EpicReads, but in no way affected my opinion. Thank you to the publisher for also sending me the ARC.