Carve the Mark
By Veronica Roth
So, I love reading books in series because it means I get to spend more time with characters I love...but I don't always remember what happened in earlier books when the next book in the series is published. So, this post is going to totally have SPOILERS--tons and tons of SPOILERS. I'm going to pretty much summarize the entire plot and tell who's who, so that when the next book comes out, I can look at this post to remind myself of what happened and important details. So, here's my synopsis of Carve the Mark.
The are nine planets orbiting within the currentstream barrier, each with certain things that make it unique. Thuvhe has two groups of people--the Thuvhites and the Shotets. The Shotets, led by the Noavek family, are scavengers who visit other planets and scavenge there and bring back what they find to renew it and make it good again. They are pretty bloodthirsty and they mark their arms with "kills". They are also determined to rule their planet--but the Oracles have proclaimed that Ryzek Noavek is fated to fall to the family Benesit. Like his parents before him, Ryzek is determined to find a way to avoid his fate--although the whole point of a fate is that it is destined, seen in whatever future the Oracles envision, no matter what different scenarios play out.
Each person is given a different gift through the currentstream--and Ryzek, who has been twisted and warped by his tyrannical father, will use whatever means he can to change his fate, including his own currentgift of taking people's memories and replacing them with his, and his sister Cyra's currentgift of hurting--torturing--people by merely touching them. Normally fates aren't publicly known, but when the fates of several people are announced, Ryzek sends soldiers to Thuvhe to capture those who will interfere with his mission.
The Kesreseth family is one Thuvhite family that is attacked. Akos is captured, as is his brother, Eijeh, who is fated to be the next Oracle. Their sister Cisi is spared, but their father is killed, and their mother Sifa (the current oracle) does nothing to stop any of this. Akos and Eijeh are taken to Ryzek, who demands that Eijeh prophesy for him, but Eijeh doesn't know how to use his gift. Akos has been trained as a soldier but then he is given to Cyra as a servant--because his currentgift is interrupts others' gifts, which means if he touches her, she is no longer in constant pain. He is determined to escape and to take Eijeh with him--but once he tries, Ryzek starts taking pieces of Eijeh's memory, replacing them with his own (horrible) memories, until Eijeh is barely recognizable as himself. Cyra has always done what her brother demanded, hurting people, so that he wouldn't tell anyone that she had (accidentally) killed their mother, but as she spends time with Akos, who has a goodness about him and also seems to believe there is something good in her, she refuses to help Ryzek--until he hurts Akos to punish her. From that point on, Cyra is ready to work with rebels and exiles to get Akos away from her brother--even if it means making him go without Eijeh. Cyra tries to lead an assassination attempt, but it fails--and then Ryzek makes her touch Akos (who, in a severely weakend state can't use his currentgift to interrupt her) to torture him. In so doing, though, Cyra, who has never been able to control her gift, resists. She loves Akos and refuses to hurt him, pulling the pain back into herself. When she does so, Akos is rescued by her allies; they take him to Thuvhe, where he meets up with his sister, Cisi, and her friend Isae (who is destined to be the Chancellor that Ryzek falls to) and her twin sister Ori (who keeps her sister safe as very few people know which of them is fated to be the Chancellor--and killing them in the wrong order can change things that people don't want changed). Ori is kidnapped by Shotets, so Cisi, Isae, and Akos go meet up with Jorek, a Shotet rebel (and Cyra's cousin).
Meanwhile, Cyra has been skinned on her face by Vas, her brother's soldier who can't feel pain, and has been challenged to fight him. However, Akos and his allies (including Teka, Jorek, and more) get her out of the arena. Akos has realized he cares for her, too. Sifa joins their group--and Akos has mixed feelings about her, since she didn't protect them and manipulates people sometimes through her visions. Based on Sifa's latest visions, the group decides that Akos and Isae will rescue Ori before Ryzek can assassinate her and that Cyra will publicly challenge Ryzek to a fight that he can't back down from without losing face. Akos, hoping to force Ryzek to restore Eijeh's memories, wants her to keep Ryzke alive, but she says she can't. When Akos and Isae go rescue Ori, she isn't in the prison that Sifa said she was in (Akos kills Vas on the way to get there). Cyra has gotten a reluctant ally, Yma, to poison Ryzek; she makes it look like she stabs him but really he is only unconscious; however, as that happens, Eijeh kills Ori, his former friend and then sort of goes into a trance--possibly affected by Ori's gift (but Akos doesn't know what her gift is). They get Ryzek and Eijeh back to the ship, where Ryzek tells Cyra she's not really his sister and that HIS father (not her father) is still alive.
Isae directs their ship to go to the Assembly, to show them she is alive. Akos, with his mother and sister, and now Cyra, sees that maybe you can get some things back...at least for now.
So, this was a fascinating world to enter. Akos is a likable character; he's good and loyal and he hates hurting people. Cyra is complicated--which is good. She's an excellent character for discussion--is she good? Is she bad? Is she to blame for how she is? etc. (Ryzek and Sifa also make for interesting discussion points.)
This reminds me of Graceling by Kristin Cashore--with special gifts that a wicked ruler uses to maintain power and exploit others. I'm really interested to see where things go in the next book.