A look at the Carve the Mark sneak peaks: prose, photos and artwork

preprderVeronica Roth engages with her readers through a variety of social media outlets, notably Twitter, Instagram and Tumblir. With a scant two weeks remaining until the release of her new book, Carve the Mark, she is clearly doing what she can to generate and maintain interest, including offering an bonus epilogue to the Divergent series for those who pre-order. And yes, that particular bit of marketing strategy worked very nicely on me–not that I wouldn’t have ordered the book anyway.

In addition to releasing a preview chapter, Ms. Roth has been sharing regular “teasers:” sentences from Carve the Mark she has been releasing weekly, along with a photograph or painting, at least some of which her mother assisted in preparing. I thought it would be fun to look through the ten teasers released so far, speculate about what they could mean for the new series and look for any possible echoes to the Divergent trilogy.  So, here are the ten teaser quotes, in the order they were released, and including the art.

ctm-opening1. The first was the opening line of Carve the Mark.

Hushflowers always bloomed when the night was longest. The whole city celebrated the day the bundle of petals peeled apart into rich red– partly because hushflowers were their nation’s lifeblood and partly, Akos thought, to keep them all from going crazy in the cold.

As other previews have mentioned, plants apparently play a big role in this book. The red flower pictured above–presumably the hushflower–bears a strong resemblance to the red flowers featured in the book trailer.  A second plant, the “iceflower” is also mentioned as providing “lifeblood”–and given the opening trailer images of snowscapes interspersed with the fiery red flowers, and the red, black and white theme of the accompanying artwork, it is a possibility we could be looking at an alchemical organization, as Christine Wesley brilliantly deduced for Divergent. That would certainly be a nice Yuletide gift for John.

subtlefist2. The next teaser comes from Cyra, the female protagonist:

 “I had all the subtlety of a fist to the face.

This quotation is framed with a very different color scheme, and non-too-subtle boxing gloves, suggesting a protagonist with the aggression of a Dauntless and the bluntness of a Candor. The dominant color, however, is the blue of Erudite (also a faction with a lot of straight-shooters), punctuated with blue’s opposite hue, yellow, for maximum impact around the fist drawing. This evokes a comic-book style punch; perhaps a nod to the “X-Men in space,” theme pointed out by some reviewers. In any case, we can expect a heroine who can take care of herself, as befits the creator of Tris Prior.

oldbeauty3. In the third teaser, Cyra shows us a softer side of her culture, the Shotet.

We knew how to hold the beauty of old things against the beauty of the new, losing nothing from either.

This was the artwork that Ms. Roth’s mother painted, according to the Instagram feed.  We have the bright yellow again, but this time paired with a soft, earthy, almost-grey green, accented with a bird and a pair of clasped hands (Abnegation symbol, anyone?).  We are back to an image of life and emotional closeness, which is also reminiscent of Amity.

soft-hearts4. Soft hearts make the universe worth living in.

The picture here is fairly simple, with the quotation written on a plain white index card, with the Carve the Mark book in the background. Unlike the other quotations, we also do not know which character narrates this line.  It does seem to contrast to the book’s tagline. “Honor has no place in survival.”


 5. Cyra: You’re determined to deprive me of fun.

Akos: That’s because apparently, your version of ‘fun’ is making me believe I’m in mortal peril.

Now, this is a line that could have come straight from Divergent, where convincing Tris and her fellow initiates that they were in mortal peril was as normal as chocolate cake. This is also the first time that Akos, the male protagonist, has been quoted, and his words suggest he is the more serious and less adventurous of the two characters. Very interesting choice to put the quotations on a light box, with Cyra’s in black and Akos’s in blue. Could Ms. Roth be telling us that one is more Dauntless and one more Erudite?

persistantchildren6. Ms. Roth describes the next teaser as the line that most defines Akos to her. It is spoken by Sifa, Akos’s mother.

“That is the distinct feature of all my children. They are persistent. To the point of delusion, some might say.” 

This artwork is the first monochromatic we have seen, and the regular, repetitive geometric pattern implies orderliness, regularity and yes, persistence. This one definitely has a conscientious, Abnegation-feel to it, another hint that in this book, the male will be the more cautious of the pair. This is making me think that the dynamic between Cyra and Akos may be more like Katniss and Peeta than Tris and Tobias.

paininside7. We are back to a Cyra-quote, and another monochromatic image for the next teaser.

“I wanted to show these people who he really was. And pain always did that, took the insides out.” 

Personally, I can’t look at the skull image without thinking “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well,” but that may be because I teach at a university with a Shakespeare and Performance program. The real question this raises is who the “he” is.  It doesn’t sound like Akos; I’m betting on Cyra’s tyrannical brother, Ryzek.

steady-hands8. Akos takes the role of narrator in the next teaser, describing his sister Cisi:

She had steady hands and an even temper and a sharp mind. More than just a sweet person with a good disposition, as if anyone was just that.

The artwork is earth-toned, accented by a couple of heads of wheat. Again, the agricultural them reminds us of Amity, and the steady hands of Abnegation. As Akos seems to have both a kind mother and sister, it seems that the stage is being set as the opposite of the Tris and Tobias situation, with him having the loving family and her the dysfunctional one.

body-ctm9. Next, Ms. Roth gives us Cyra again, in what she calls a moment of “body positivity.

“This body had carried me through a hard life. It looked exactly the way it was supposed to.”

Now, we know Ms. Roth is a huge Harry Potter fan, so I can’t imagine she created this image without thinking of Harry’s torture with the hand-cutting quill; and the monochromatic color scheme echoes that bleakness. Again, this points at a brutal life for Cyra, despite what should have been a privileged position as the ruler’s daughter. Shades of Princess Leia, perhaps?

ctm-flour10. The final teaser quote returns to Akos and introduces another member of his family, his brother Eijeh.

“Careful,” Akos said to him. “Death by bread isn’t a dignified way to go.”

“At least I’ll die doing what I love,” Eijeh said. 

The artwork appears to be a flour-covered table, with the words written in green ink on an equally flour-covered yellow notepad. If the previous quote reminded me of Harry Potter, this one reminded me of The Hunger Games, with Peeta joking about killing people by chucking bags of flour at them. But, the image of a baking-loving brother is another indication that Akos is the one with a reasonable family.

So, what else can we expect? In her announcement about the Divergent epi-epilogue, Ms. Roth also stated that there are 42 chapters in the first book, alternating in narration between Cyra and Akos. That gives them 21 each—  suggesting a possibly 7-part structure.  I am sure our Headmaster will be reading it with an eye open for ring structure.

Only a fortnight until we find out…can you tell I’m excited?

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