Carve the Mark
I read Carve the Mark solely because I was interested in the chronic pain content, so that's the only part I'm reviewing. I heard it was pretty terrible, and, yeah.
The really disappointing thing is that the first 300 pages are very good on the chronic pain front. The depiction of Cyra's life with pain rang true to me in every way--the way it feels in the body, the impact it has on your daily life, the way people around you can't cope with seeing your pain. Cyra is maybe a little active for a person with chronic pain, but it's an action-hero fantasy. I can accept that.
Then, on page 309-310 (of the hardback), Roth takes all that accuracy and goodwill and throws it right into the trash. Cyra has an insight about her pain, via flashback to a conversation with a doctor she saw as a child:
"That [Cyra]'s gift causes her to invite pain into herself, and project pain into others, suggests something about what's going on inside her," [the doctor] said. "A cursory assessment says that on some level, she feels she deserves it. And she feels others deserve it as well."
The plot affirms this analysis: Cyra's constant pain is due to her own psychological--and moral--issues. To be clear, Cyra has killed, like, a LOT of people by this point, with her gift, by projecting pain into their bodies until they die of shock. And the plot affirms that this is all connected. Cyra is a killer, and Cyra has chronic pain, because Cyra believes, deeply and firmly, that she and others deserve to be in pain.
This is astonishingly bad. It's a deeply awful slur on people with chronic pain, one that infects the medical system and is the direct cause of the denial of care to many people who need it. Plus, it's a boring rehash of the same old villainous trope about people with disabilities: people in pain want to hurt other people.
In stories they do, anyway. If you stop and look at the world and ask yourself whether or not the people doing the most harm are the ones feeling the most pain, you might come to a different conclusion.
Anway, this book sucks, read something else instead, like Nicola Griffith's SO LUCKY.
n.b. trigger warnings for self harm (including several scenes that are basically how-tos for cutting oneself).