Carve The Mark Isn’t Racist • Opinion

I finished Carve the Mark last week and I sat down today to write a review on it. I have a normal enough process; finish book, jot down my thoughts, check out other reviews to get a feel of what everyone is saying and then write review. This time around I noticed a huge amount of articles on how Carve the Mark is racist, and although this isn’t a topic I usually like to get involved in, I felt like I needed to give my two cents because of all the misinformation being spread.

First of all, I don’t understand how people can call this book racist, truly. They either haven’t read it carefully enough or they opened it looking for something to come across as racist. If it’s the former, they should have paid more attention, and if it’s the latter, that’s incredibly sad in my opinion. I personally think it’s an unhappy marriage of both, but it’s also because many of the articles I read have the misinformed notion that the book’s Shotet people (known for their barbarity) are dark skinned and the Thuvhesit people (known as a peace loving people) are white. This is not fact.

Most of the articles I’ve read calling out Carve the Mark for its supposed racism (like this popular one by Justina Ireland that I disagree with) base their article on the idea that the Shotet people are dark skinned. Far from being true, there is huge diversity in both the Thuvhesit and Shotet people. The villain of the series, Ryzek, who is a Shotet person and the head of the cruel Noavek family, is constantly described as white, pale, and skeletal. Cyra, on the other hand, who is described as dark skinned like her mother is actually the hero of the story. Akos, who is a white Thuvhesit person kidnapped by Ryzek’s goons, is not the hero and this is obvious to anyone who has read the entire book; he is a main character for sure but he consistently fails in his attempts to escape and would never have done so had Cyra not been as heroic and self-sacrificing as she is.

carve the mark isn't racist
Art of Ryzek Noavek by Gabriel Picolo (@_picolo on Instagram)

Not only does she put herself in danger numerous times to allow Akos to escape, she also puts aside the revenge she wants so that Akos can try to save his brother. Cyra is a completely selfless character constantly trying to help Akos despite the fact that if he left her, she would always have to deal with the excruciating pain her currentgift inflicts on her. She is willing to forever bear her pain so that Akos can be free. She is a hero in every sense of the word. So far we have a dark skinned hero, a white villain and his white slave; how exactly is this a racist book?

Eijeh and Cisi, Akos’ brother and sister, are both described as having brown skin despite being (the supposedly all-white) Thuvhesit, as is the chancellor of Thuvhe, Isae, who has light brown skin. As well as this, Shotet characters Teka, Zosita and Yma are all white characters described as having pale blonde hair. They are Shotet, not Thuvheist, so again, how have people come to think that the Shotet people are all dark skinned? Honestly, readers who claim Carve the Mark is racist are betraying their own deeply rooted prejudice, in my opinion, particularly because many did not finish it. It seems once Cyra was described as being a dark skinned Shotet person (a people known for their barbarity), they assumed the rest of the Shotet were also dark skinned. That says more about the reader than it does about Veronica Roth.

The only thing in this book that came across as remotely problematic to me was the description of Cyra’s mother’s hair, when Roth said it was “so curly it trapped fingers”. Now obviously this is an attempt to describe natural afro hair and although I don’t think Roth did a particularly good job at explaining this, I think it’s a far cry from racism. She’s not inferring her hair is inferior because of how curly it is, she’s simply trying to describe it, though I agree it could’ve been written much better. There is a great website called Writing With Colour that really helped me when writing characters of colour in my own novel, so check it out if you’re having trouble with descriptions as well.

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I think this book actually has a very important message; that what we don’t understand, we fear. The Shotet and Thuvehesit people do not understand each other at all, and they have created so many rumours and lies about each other over the years that both sides have different versions of the truth; they have opposing origins for who started their feud, who is the hero and who is the villain. This is in parallel with our own real lives where many of us have irrational fear for other cultures we know little to nothing about. It is an expression of reality, and reality is not always pleasant or fair.

The people who allow fear to lead them – and in this case both of Carve the Mark’s cultures fall prey to this – will always be blind. It also shows us that hatred is learned, that prejudice is taught, and that whole cultures and whole groups of people can’t be tarred by the same brush. The Shotet and Thuvhesit are not divided by skin colour, they are divided by culture and prejudice.

You may disagree with me, but I read this book very recently from cover to cover and even went over passages again to check characters’ skin colours and confirm what I’ve said in this article. This isn’t something I thought I’d find myself doing when I first bought the book, but so be it.

Finally, Carve the Mark is not perfect by any means, but by that I mean the overall plot and pacing of the novel. It’s sloppy at times and a little inconsistent, the world building is quite blurry and it’s often plagued by a slow pace, but it’s not racist and it doesn’t encourage damaging, problematic tropes of dark skinned people being aggressors.

Review • Owlcrate Box – February 2016 – Sci Fi Love

As I was impressed with last month’s Owlcrate box, I was excited to receive February’s one and I’m glad I re-ordered as I liked this one even more than January’s box.

One of the main differences I noticed straight away is that this one did not include a Pop Funko toy and seemed to contain less items than usual. However, quantity does not indicate quality.

The theme for this month got me really excited – sci fi love – as I read sci fi books almost exclusively and I could guess what kind of love related books may be included. I was only right on one – Cinder – and, really, the theme was more sci fi in general rather than sci fi love but I really liked the items all the same.

As well as the main book, which I’ll get to in a minute, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells was included in the box and, might I say, it’s a really gorgeous version with some stunning cover art. I’m a big fan of novellas as they’re so quick and easy to read and I’ve wanted to read The Time Machine for a long time so I’m delighted it was included.

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I started the gym at the start of the year and I’ve been looking around for a nice tote bag to carry my water bottle and fruit in while I’m there. The ones I looked at online are pretty expensive so I was pleasantly surprised to find this pink tote bag featuring the couples of The Lunar Chronicles series. Although pink wouldn’t be my first choice, it’s still a great bag and I’ll definitely get the use out of it.

Although I knew a handcrafted wooden item would be included, I didn’t know which franchise it would belong to. The Doctor Who brooch is a cute addition. I haven’t watched very much of the show though I do have a healthy appreciation for the Tardis. Even if I don’t keep this, though I think I will as I’ve been meaning to watch the latest series, it would make a great gift for someone else.

Finally, the main book in this box is called The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry. The premise seems very promising; Natalie Cleary has to risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves. Goodreads has given it 3.88 stars, but that rating doesn’t deter me because that’s 4 stars if you round up. And I always round up. If it was 2 stars I’d be worried.

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Goodreads’ description of the book is as follows: Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau. 

I’m a sucker for beautiful cover art and if a book looks good enough to devour in a few hours then I’m always more inclined to pick it up. Also included, and I think this is a very nice touch, is a personalised letter from Henry as well as a sticker featuring a quote from the book signed by her as well.

With shipping included, the box comes out at about €37. Although I balked at the initial cost I think this particular box is worth it. In this box I got two books, both ones I’m looking forward to read, a handcrafted wooden Tardis pin, a sticker signed by Emily Henry and a bag. Plus when it comes down to it you pay for the surprise and the promise of a great book that you may not have picked up before.

Overall, I’m very happy with this month’s box and I’m super excited to read The Love That Split The World.

 

Are you subscribed to Owlcrate? What did you think of February’s box? Let me know in the comments!