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473 pages, Paperback
First published January 17, 2017
Wow. I just…there are times when the words flow out of me in torrents and I can’t stop no matter how hard I try, but then there are times when I have literally one million things to say…and no idea how to say them. This book touched me in a way I’m not often used to-at least, not anymore. A long time ago, when I finally found my favorite genres and what made me the happiest, I was finding a seamless stream of five star books because I had finally found what worked for me. But lately, those streams of winners are harder to come by.
For one, I’m extremely picky now-I know what I like, down to the very last word, and anything less is unacceptable. It’s no secret to any of my friends that I love all things mayhem, death, destruction, forbidden love mixed with peril peril peril. But not many authors truly, truly give you all those things at once. It’s so rare, anyway. And, because it’s so rare, those authors who do deliver on all things nasty and despicable in the name of love make it impossible to forget who they are.
“You’re a Noavek,” he said stubbornly, folding his arms. “Brutality is in your blood.”
I have this little niche of what I like to call ‘peril authors’. They are my go-to when I want something that isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Now, I’m not saying the stories don’t eventually end happily…but they leave you with some very nasty cliffhangers. Did I happen to mention that nasty, white-knuckle cliffhangers are literally my favorite thing EVER?? So, these authors, they never shy away from doing what they need to pack a devastating punch. I never go all in when my head isn’t in the right place-after all, even the most dastardly and peril obsessed reviewers need a break from all the heart-break. We aren’t robots, ya know?? And, after a while, if you read hardcore books one after the other, you are bound to become a little bit jaded.
So, when I was offered this beauty from the publishers of Veronica Roth’s newest MASTERPIECE, I, of course, accepted. For one, what an honor-little ol’ me, getting a book from a best-selling MEGA FAMOUS author before most of the world. It’s crazy, and I did not look a gift horse in mouth-I didn’t hesitate in responding. Secondly, I adored-ABSOLUTELY ADORED-the Divergent trilogy. And not just the first two-all three. Veronica Roth, while a very cunning and devious woman, is someone I wholly admire. Her writing is poetic and flows effortlessly from paragraph to paragraph, page to page. I have ALWAYS lumped her in with my favorite poetic authors.
“A knife,” I said. “A hot poker. A rusty nail.”
“You are more than any of those things.”
And, while she isn’t someone I think of weekly, or even monthly, I have never forgotten her after her shocking finale to the Divergent series. The ‘what-if’s and ‘what will she do next’s were never far from my mind…it has just taken a while to finally see a new book in the works from this spectacular woman.
“And you’re starting to sound kind of cocky, for someone I routinely beat up.”
I know many people are weary of what comes next from the daring author who shocked the world (and that is the LAST time I will mention her former series, because it is doing a great injustice to this beautiful book), and I know there are going to be a million comparisons-it’s just inevitable. But I truly saw something so amazing here-something I never thought I’d see. It would be such a shame to not give this duology a chance because of an uncertain future and phobia of the past. I know everyone is quick to fall in love with main characters (I fell so hard, so fast for these two new characters that it shocked even me) and people are quick to protect those they love---but the love I feel for these two AMAZING characters is so unparalleled, and permanent, that I must insist on reading this the moment it comes out.
When I looked at him again, he was smiling at me hesitantly.
“You love them,” he said. “All these places, all these things.”
I’ll admit that I was scared of the prospect of space travel-and for that matter, space lingo-but not once did I ever slow down or feel lost as I was racing through this fast-paced, addicting story. And that’s my favorite thing-I never wanted to put this book down. Roth’s passion was reflected on each and every page, echoing to us in a new, inventive way with each arising issue. Each character was created in a delicate manner, making for layered, flawed, and believable characters. These were people you wanted to root for, and you never really knew if they were going to win-in both mental and physical scenarios.
"You and I, we’ve become what we were made to become.”
Their minds were tested in unimaginable and barbaric ways, twisting what they believed and hoped for in life to the point of utter despair. Loyalties were bent and broken, repaired and restored-the boundaries of love and family snuffed out in a manner of minutes. You were forced to pick a side and survive…whether you wanted to or not.
The same thing she always did, only now he noticed-noticed that he knew it, that was; knew her routines, knew her.
And liked her.
Akos is from the peace loving Thuvhe, a wintery world where you have to wear goggles to walk around outside. It’s beauty is unparalleled to its inhabitants, crystallized and serene and snowy as can be. Grays are the norm, much like the environment…which can be seen as dull to others. Cyra is Noavek-Brutal and unforgiving Shotet tyrants who wear blue. Their beliefs couldn’t be any different, nor could the difference in style of life: One place bloodthirsty, unrelenting in its quest for power and dominance. Pain is no stranger here. You can immediately see why our two main characters are the way they are, and you instantly feel for both. Sides are hard to choose and lines are blurred…as becomes evident the farther into the story we get.
And here comes the good stuff, the stuff that makes this beautiful love story possible. Forbidden love…isn’t it the best thing ever, when done correctly? Yeah. I think so, too. Cyra’s currentgift is pain, Akos’s is to diffuse people’s gift. Both very valuable currentgifts…and both susceptible to manipulation and vulnerable to almost everyone. When paired together without a say in the matter, they realize they can be an asset to one another. Neither is willing to put all their trust in the other, but they also don’t fight what seems to be a tentative alliance. After all, it’s nice having someone who understands you (to a degree), someone who is there to take some of the burden away, who wants to help (again, to a degree-they do have differing conclusions to what they believe to be their story).
“Honor,” I said with a snort. “Honor has no place in survival.”
But, as they get closer, what was once clear begins to become a convoluted cloud of emotions and hope-could they possibly want the same thing?? Is she truly a monster, or can she still be someone who helps make the world a better place? Does she want to help Akos…even at the expense of going against her only brother?
Akos’s kindness was something that resonated deeply within me right away-but, even more than that, his gradual fierceness. He’s not perfect, nor is he indestructible, but his silent fury mixed with an unrelenting kindness made him an instant book boyfriend that I was absolutely obsessed with. And then Cyra-one of my favorite female leads of all time. Some might say I even have a girl crush. Yeah-serious stuff, right?
“Next time, when something that sounds remarkably like war drums is going to wake me at dawn, could you maybe warn me?”
Cyra deals with pain 24/7. Literally-all day, all night-no matter what. Until she dispenses that pain into an unwilling victim, causing them pain so severe they would reveal their deepest, darkest secrets. She is numb to the power now, her brother’s little torture device. Cunning, witty, and skilled in combat like nobody’s business, she is not to be trifled with-seriously, she’s so badass. But-and probably why my girl crush (on top of my book boyfriend crush (so much win)) is shining so bright-she wasn’t so strong she didn’t have vulnerability or weakness. She lost sometimes. She didn’t always make the right choices. And, if I’m comparing here, I kept thinking of a female book character I really didn’t like...she kind of made up the anatomy of Cyra, here.
It was not hope; it did not soar; it slithered, clawed, and dragged, and it would not let me stop.
I saw a lot Adelina from Marie Lu’s most recent trilogy. Dark, corrupted, and willing to do what she had to for those she loved-and herself. She had to relieve the pain sometimes, you know? It’s not all about choice. But, see, I hated Adelina. She was okay, I guess, but I found her pathetic and whiny-not here. Cyra took the BEST PARTS of Adelina and made her someone I adored. Okay, I didn’t really read the second or third books of that trilogy, nor is there a direct line that connected these characters in any way-I just got the vibe, that feeling, and I dug it.
"I like to move."
He offered touch to me so freely, without realizing how rare it was. How rare he was, to a person like me.
So, as you can see, I’m hooked. I was hooked from the first part that was in his POV, and I was sunk-line and sinker-when I met Cyra. These two were made for one another, but born enemies. They don’t want to like each other, and they don’t always understand, but...things happen. And isn’t slow burn romance the best kind of romance (especially paired with forbidden romance-HA thought you caught me there, didn’t you)?? Roth’s writing was, as promised, better than ever and even a bit more mature, if that’s even possible. She writes in a way you don’t once get confused about, no matter the content, and makes you physically ache for more. It’s been a long time since I was so stressed out I couldn’t breathe, but more than once I found myself gasping for breath and clutching my heart-stopping and staring at the page with wide eyes as I tried to calm my breathing (maybe this partially has to do with being pregnant, but I say no, I was just super excitable because...excellence at work, people) and get myself under control. I smiled so big without even realizing it that it bordered on embarrassing. I tried, and failed, repeatedly to find errors with the book and why my best of friends wouldn’t like the story (or anyone, for that matter, if I’m being honest), but never once could think of anything. And, if there was something, it was nit-picky and I completely missed it. I don’t know if this book is for everybody, or even what everyone else will think-All I can do is go with my heart and my gut, and they both say this is a winner. I know, without a doubt, that when this releases it will be my (late) Christmas gift to all friends and family that read. I know it’s a certainty I will be rushing to Barnes and Noble on release day to buy myself a hardback of this new absolute favorite. I have found three favorite books this year, all by amazing authors almost everyone loves…and this book tops them all. So, my hope is, with this long-winded review, that I’ve convinced or intrigued almost everyone to give this book a shot. And, for those who are not so easily swayed (or manipulated), honestly, its their loss.
**Quotes taken from an uncorrected galley and are subject to change upon release of the finished book**
Having spent the last hour reading through Review 1, Review 2, Tweets, opinion posts, in addition to the comments threads, there seems to be a whole lot of furore about this book which, I must say, now has me intrigued enough to want to read Carve the Mark.
A few reviewers felt the need to disclaim previous reviews, while some bloggers sought to distance themselves from both the author and HarperTeen, the publishers. My understanding is that one, the book has racial undertones, the author's allusion to chronic pain as a source of strength for one of the characters is another problematic issue.
Empathy, I understand. What has me concerned is that I haven't read, yet, a review from a person of color. Should any of my friends have a review from a POC, please, feel free to share. Nevertheless, I will set aside the 20+ (laugh/scoff, you know you want to) "currently-reading" books to gladly dive into this one. Will I find it offensive? Perhaps, but what I know you all know is, I'll be 100% real.
"I didn't choose the blood that runs in my veins," I replied. "Any more than you chose your fate. You and I, we've become what we were made to become."
"The gift," I said, "is the strength the curse has given me." The new answer was a blooming hushflower, petals unfurling. "I can bear it. I can bear pain. I can bear anything."
"The darkness was pain, and I was made of it, I was pain itself."
“You assume I’m brutal because that’s what you’ve heard. Well, what about what I’ve heard about you? Are you thin-skinned, a coward, a fool?”