Why You Shouldn’t Read CARVE THE MARK


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 Thuvhe, 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.

Unfortunately, Carve the Mark fell drastically short of my expectations. Whether it was the lack of empathy I had for the characters, the limited knowledge I had of the world where this story took place or the way this novel has been called out for racism, or maybe a mix of all three, I made the decision to put down Carve the Mark around the halfway point. Please take that into consideration when reading my review.


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

One of the things that puts me off reading much high fantasy or intense sci-fi is the issue with naming characters. People will either be called names that I can’t pronounce and I have to give them new names, or I’ll get mixed up between characters and be like: “So is that the brother? Or the sister? I just don’t know anymore.” To me, a name is something that initiates the beginning of a strong connection with characters and it can be used to highlight a characteristic of the person or even ironically. So on top of everyone in Carve the Mark having “unique” names that made me lose track of characters, the way that we were introduced to so many characters in the first few chapters made it impossible to get to know them well until the halfway mark. But obviously I wasn’t that devoted to them because it wasn’t hard for me to put down Carve the Mark without any hesitations or regrets.

Houston, we have a problem.

While the idea of people having a “gift” that was unique to them and could either make them stronger or be something they had to work at to ensure it didn’t consume them, the general world-building was definitely lacking in the beginning. I’m someone who can’t get fully involved in a story until I feel as though I’m actually walking alongside the characters I’m introduced to, and that’s a little hard when I can’t even picture the ground they’re stepping on. Although I’d much prefer slow but steady world building throughout the novel to info-dumping, I felt that it took me quite a while until I could imagine where these people were living and the type of society they were surrounded by. But even when I put this novel down at around the halfway mark, the foundations were still a little shaky.

Stick to what you’re good at, Veronica. Oh wait…

When I first heard about Carve the Mark, I was unbelievably excited. Before realising that Veronica Roth absolutely ruined me with Allegiant and I still hadn’t forgiven her for that, as well as making the mistake of seeing the films and having them taint my memory of this series. When I read Divergent a few years ago, I quite liked it, but the series undeniably went downhill. What I wanted from Veronica was Divergent amplified and improved, another fantastic dystopian to sink my teeth into and get caught up in. Alas, that was not the case. I don’t mind reading fantasy and sci-fi, but Carve the Mark just wasn’t gripping as Divergent was and I was disappointed to find that I didn’t feel connected to the characters like I did with Tris and Four and I didn’t feel compelled to read on, unlike how I devoured Divergent in one sitting. It was just hard to get into, hard to connect to, and impossible to finish because of that. Sorry.

Are we done yet?

As I mentioned before, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make to DNF Carve the Mark. After hearing everyone scream about wanting a copy when ARCs were being sent out and then take this book off their TBR when it was called out for racism (which I’ll get to in a second), there was a tiny part of me that thought that I should just force myself to finish it and get on with it so that I could write a properly informed and holistic review. But then I realised that my opinion about this book is pretty obvious if I found it so hard to get into and so disappointing that I couldn’t even finish it. Even another person I’ve talked to who received an ARC couldn’t get through it. If you’re expecting Carve the Mark to sweep you off your feet and become your new favourite duology, I think you might have to reconsider.

Another one bites the dust.

And finally, if you’re present on social media and the online bookish community, you will have heard that Carve the Mark has been called out for being racist and problematic by various readers who are much more informed than I am and feel directly affected, offended or hurt by what is written in Carve the Mark. While I’m white and I’m obviously not in the position to declare what’s racist and what isn’t, I’m a strong believer in calling out problematic representation and racism and I believe that we should all be reading more diverse books. But again, as I DNF’d this novel, I can’t say much directly about the racism (as I might not have encountered the majority or the worst of it), but it was a factor in why I decided to put this book down because as much as I wanted to write a holistic review of Carve the Mark, I didn’t want to push aside my beliefs in doing so. If you only want to read Carve the Mark to see if it’s racist for yourself, please don’t buy a copy. We should be using our money to show publishers that we want more diverse, #OwnVoices novels instead of the same thing over and over again by non-marginalised writers. Listen to those who have spoken about the racism issues in Carve the Mark and don’t be one of those people who assumes it isn’t racist because you weren’t offended or affected.


If you’d like to read an exceptionally well-written piece about the trope of the dark-skinned aggressor in Carve the Mark and The Continent, check out this post by Justina Ireland.


Read diversely. Support #OwnVoices.

So instead of supporting ANY novel that’s been called out for being problematic or racist, I encourage you to pick up a diverse novel instead. We need to show the publishers that these are the books we want to read. Here are some of my favourite posts about diverse YA novels and most-anticipated diverse releases:

60 Diverse Books To Look Forward To in 2017

Diversity in YA

Rich in Color

Top 10 Books By Transgender Authors Featuring Trans Characters


1 Star

Let's Talk

Did you receive an ARC of Carve the Mark? Was this one on your TBR? Are you likely to change your mind about reading a book if it’s called out for being problematic? What’s your favourite diverse release of 2016, and what diverse book are you most excited to read next year? I’d love to know!

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50 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Read CARVE THE MARK

  1. I was already doubting to read Carve the Mark since I am not a fan of the Divergent trilogy (I still have to read Allegiant).
    I planned to wait what people I trust would say about the book once it is published, but now that it has been called out for racism, I am 150% sure that I wouldn’t read it. And no one can convince me to read.
    I don’t feel bad for not wanting to read it and I know I won’t regret not reading it.

  2. I didn’t care much for Divergent and didn’t bother to read the rest of the series, but when I heard about this one I thought I might as well give it a try… Guess not!
    Great review, and very informative 🙂

  3. This review is great!

    I was watching BookTubers such like Emma, Jesse, etc and almost all of them has said that they had a hard time following the story and that turns me off. If they couldn’t follow the story, that is a good sign that I would not even as well. Then the book has been called out, it’s bye bye book. Off my TBR. No way for me to even want to read the book after that.

  4. Thanks for all your posts this year Sarah. The teacups are now as important as Goodreads ratings when I am mulling over whether or not to read a YA book. Happy holiday reading! 🙂

  5. I shared Justina’s article in a group on Facebook. Two responders basically asked if racism is a real part of life, why can’t people write about it. And why can’t it be a subtheme in a book? As a social activist/social worker I have similar discussions all the time. However, I really didn’t even know what to say to those commenters because I have never talked about this in terms of writing books. I ended up just deleting the post. *Sigh*

  6. This is a really good review! I already heard that people said this book offended some people and that it had racism in it but I have to admit I have no idea why, so thanks for putting the link into your review, I’ll read that now.
    I didn’t put the book off my wishlist after hearing about the racism fact, since I wasn’t sure if someone was Really offended or if it was just someone who was seeking for attention. But I also didn’t pre-order it, like I wanted to in first place.
    I.may download the free chapters on amazon for my kindle and then decide if I want to read the book or not, because I don’t want to invest in a book that is 1st) called out for racism 2nd) as bad as And I darken.
    And if I go after your review it seems so.

  7. This is awesome Sarah! I believe I am getting sent a review copy of Carve The Mark too, and I plan to call out the racist remarks concerning this book in my review for it. I loved how well you handled writing this review and how truthfully you spoke!

  8. (my previous comment was posted accidentally)

    I am one of those who looked forward for this book to be released because, even though the Divergent series weren’t the best written and kind of went downhill, I still liked it. But after reading all that stuff, I don’t even want to read it anymore and I totally give up on V.Roth’s future works.

  9. I was actually looking forward to reading the book when it was first announced, but after recently seeing all the posts, tweets, etc. calling out the problematic aspects I’m getting put off by it… 😦

    • I felt exactly the same. I was excited to read it but not I can’t recommend AVOIDING it enough. It’s definitely not worth all the hype it’s received, and I think it should even be recalled from sale, to be honest. The blatant disrespect of culture and people suffering from chronic pain too (as was called out today) is offensive and has to be rectified if it’s released to the general public. And an apology or some recognition from the author and publisher. It’s just unacceptable.

  10. I honestly was very excited to read carve the mark but with so many bad reviews, it makes me second guess. I wanted to pre-order so I could get her epilogue. But I heard that was bad too. This was very helpful, thank you!

  11. I was excited for this book, but after this… nope. Just nope. I’m latino and LGBTQ, so I’ll pass. I will never support ignorance.

  12. I had the exact same issues with this book! I can certainly see why some people found elements of it problematic, but I wouldn’t have seen them that way myself. The issue for me was I found the book so boring for the same reasons you did; poor world-building, confusion between characters due to their names and just a general lack of interest in the story. I felt a little guilty for giving it a 2 star rating because I was given an ARC, but I’m while I certainly wasn’t going to give it a glowing review, I do think people should go ahead and read it if they wanted to and make up their own minds. Great post!

  13. I very much enjoyed Carve The Mark (and I am a HUGE Divergent fan). I certainly didn’t feel it was written to portray racism as anything other than part of any culture; certainly not as overt as our real life experiences. While Veronica Roth is neither Tolkien nor Tolstoy, she is a talented writer who understands that not every reader wants the same plot or story line set in different circumstances or times. Both in Divergent and Carve The Mark, she created and populated worlds with diverse and colorful characters, and she gave us clear visions of the worlds they inhabit. I would like to see a pronunciation guide in any book that uses unusual names. I have to stumble over them every time I read a name. I appreciate the time and care it takes to write a thoughtful review, but when I read a review; be it for a book, movie, car, or washing machine, it’s because I want to make my own informed decision. Reviews are simply a tool to help me decide whether to consume the product. As such, I would never base a choice solely on someone else’s opinion. How would I know how delicious chocolate cake is if I was only told by my friend that it’s terrible? She hates chocolate! Read the book..like it or not. It won’t hurt you either way. You already know what’s wrong and what’s right, and the book won’t change that. Lose yourself in another world for a time…isn’t that one of the reasons we read? Not everything has to be a lesson….

    • YES. Yes Yes Yes.
      I’m struggling to read the book (I’m not very far in, yet) – I don’t think the world is described clearly enough. It’s a complex world and it’s quite hard to imagine scene to scene – especially the world-specific moments (eg what the current looks like). However, I think the characters are very interesting – especially Cyra. I loved Divergent etc, and, although I don’t think this book is written as well as that trilogy, I commend Roth for attempting a totally different genre (thought I think it could have done with more editing before publication).

      If a book is considered sexist, racist etc, that is a reason to read it! It will help inform you of your own morals, and will educate you. A lot of incredible books are banned somewhere: Clockwork Orange, His Dark Materials, Lolita etc. These books have educated society, have changed the way people write and think, have highlighted issues in society.
      Now, if you truly believe that Veronica Roth is racist, then I understand if you don’t want to give her money (borrow the book from a friend/library?). However, there is a big difference between being racist and writing about racism. I think we can all agree that J.K. Rowling isn’t racist, yet her Death Eaters are Nazi-esque.

      So my point is: if you have heard that it is racist, go ahead and read it and decide for yourself. If you don’t see how it is racist, read many different blog posts about it and see if you can tease out the racism from the book. It will teach you something about what is and isn’t considered racist, and will highlight what you need to understand about racism.

      After reading this blog post, I do see now that it could be considered racist – however, I don’t think Roth is racist herself: I think that Cyra is evidence that not all the darker skinned Shotet are violent (I assume this is the racist bit), which highlights Roth’s anti-racism. She’s just bringing up the theme of racism (just as Rowling does) – it’s a very important theme to discuss.

      And lastly, on a point made in the review: “While I’m white and I’m obviously not in the position to declare what’s racist and what isn’t…”
      People can be racist towards white people, too. And just because you’re white, that doesn’t mean you are incapable of understanding and pointing out what is racist to both your race and other races. If anyone tells you that “you are white so you can’t declare what is and isn’t racist” then…well, that’s racist.

  14. I didn’t care for Divergent enough to finish the rest of the series, so I was already apprehensive about Carve the Mark. Thanks to your thorough review, I’m going to make sure not to purchase/read it.

  15. I felt that this book was amazing. It left me on edge and hungry for the next book. Clever names and new characters gave the book a real twist I enjoyed. I recommend this book to all sci fi lovers, especially Star Wars and Star Trek fans.

  16. I’ve read Carve The Mark and completely disagree. There’s nothing seemingly racist in it as I can tell. I’m only halfway through and I love this more than the Divergent trioligy.

  17. As I will never be able to forget the bad ending of Allegiant, I will never be able to forgive Roth for that (had she left Tris alive in the end I would have been able to forgive almost all the other book let downs, but she did not so…).
    The first Divergent book was indeed a good book, but then she dig herself into a hole…

  18. I had already read the book before I heard anything about the problematic content. I didn’t love it, and in fact, it’s now in my stack of books to sell at Half Price Books, but I was interested enough to finish it, though there was something about it that I couldn’t put my finger on that made me a little uneasy.

    After reading your post and a couple other reviews calling out the racism, or at least racist connotations, in the book, I can better identify that unease now. Originally, reading the description of the book, I was expecting Cyra to be the one and only main protagonist and to see her world as she sees it, right from the start. I was expecting that the Shotet would be portrayed as a people who are misunderstood and not truly evil. I was excited that a person of color (or at least a space-sci-fi counterpart for a POC) was the protagonist of a blockbuster YA release. But those expectations never really materialized to my satisfaction, and it wasn’t until I read a review calling out the problematic issues that I recognized what I was responding to.

    I would honestly love to see another author, preferably a non-white author, take this premise and even this character (as much as I was “meh” about the book as a whole, Cyra is a fantastic character), and rework it to something more empowering.

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