Author: Jodi Meadows
Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Publication Date: February 2012
Hardcover: 384 pages
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies–human and creature alike–let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Newsoul series
How did I get this book: ARC from the Author
Why did I read this book: To be honest, I was a little scared away by the pretty pastel butterfly cover – but then I read the blurb and was a little intrigued. Then I started seeing reviews pop up for the book, many of them highly positive and from trusted sources. When author Jodi Meadows contacted us about a review, naturally, we were in! We were also lucky enough to have the lovely Ms. Meadows give us a mini interview as the centerpiece of our February Newsletter.
In the realm known as Range, humans live, die, and their souls are reincarnated with perfect memory of their past lives and all those around them. For the past five thousand years, these souls have lived and died, always with the knowledge that they will inevitably be reborn… until one day, one soul dies and a new soul is born in her place.
Ana is an aberration – the only “new soul” (or, as many like to think, a “nosoul” destined to live only one life and incapable of true emotion or meaning) born in five millennia, who has taken the place of another, Ciana, with her birth. Raised by a bitter mother, Li, that blames her for the loss of Ciana, Ana grows up in an environment of fear and loathing. When she turns eighteen, Ana strikes out from and makes her way through the treacherous winter woods – filled with sylph (spectral creatures that burn and consume humans with a touch) and dragons – to the city of Heart, in search of answers.
Along the path to Ana’s self-discovery, she finds danger and fear from those older souls that are terrified of what she might represent – but also acceptance and even love. But as tensions mount and attacks against the city by sylph and dragon alike increase, Ana discovers that her answers may come at a terrible cost, and the fate of all souls hang in the balance.
Incarnate is, in a word, unexpected. The synopsis, which includes elements of fantasy, with its focus on reincarnation, and even some dystopian aspects sounds like a frightening hodgepodge of genres and ideas. And yet, as disparate as these separate elements may seem, Incarnate is actually at its strongest in terms of worldbuilding, making each of these different parts a cohesive and intriguing whole. I loved the visualization of reincarnation in this book – instead of vampires or some other supernatural creature that remains eternally young and beautiful, souls are born into different bodies with each lifetime and have to go through a complete life cycle. Children might be raised by their friends, enemies, or former lovers, and even though a child may have the appearance of youth, she actually carries the memory of every single lifetime in her five thousand year lifespan. This makes for a strangely stagnant society in which life is important – every death, especially violent death, is felt – but a transitional state. It’s also fascinating because it means that everyone knows everything about everyone, having lived with each other for so long – but it also means that the city of Heart is a strangely stagnant place, ominous and frightening in its routine and rigidity, especially as seen through Ana’s eyes.
From a plotting and storytelling perspective, I loved the central conflict of the novel – Ana’s struggle to find answers, to find peace in this world of old souls that seem focused on hating (or simply ignoring) her until she inevitably dies and hopefully disappears forever, is compelling, thought-provoking stuff. Incarnate is both a thoughtful critique of discrimination, as well as the terror that can be inspired by change, and this theme rings as wholly true and utterly genuine. From a pure character perspective, I have to say that I liked Ana. Sure, she tends to get herself into scrapes and requires much saving at the hands of her hunky love interest, but I love that her character makes sense in all of her insecurities and fears. I also loved that she’s impulsive, but not pigheaded, and sees nothing wrong in running away from danger. Her struggles feel real in this world that seems so set on hating her, and above all, I loved her tenacity in the face of such overwhelming spite.
The romance angle, on the other hand, was the only real disappointment I had with the book. Hero Sam is obviously dreamy and completely 100% there for Ana since the beginning (i.e. saving her life on multiple occasions, and clearly head over heels in love with her since their first interaction). It’s fine. He’s sweet. He’s hot. He’s a gifted musician and there is much bonding and sexual tension over the piano and all that jazz. While the cheese level is bearable, the thing that got me was how utterly traditional and predictable the love story was – Ana meets Sam in the first few chapters and, well, you know where it’s going from there. Then again, this is of course subject to personal taste, and while this isn’t my particular cuppa, your mileage may vary.
Regardless of the tepidity of the romance and Sam’s lack of definition as a character, overall, I found Incarnate to be a wonderful surprise of a book, with an impressive sense of worldbuilding, a solid plot, and a heroine worth rooting for. Absolutely recommended – and with its killer ending, I cannot wait for book 2 in the Newsoul series.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
I wasn’t reborn.
I was five when I first realized how different that made me. It was the spring equinox in the Year of Souls: Soul Night, when others traded stories about things they’d done three lifetimes ago. Ten lives. Twenty. Battles against dragons, developing the first laser pistol, and Cris’s four-life quest to grow a perfect blue rose, only for everyone to declare it was purple.
No one bothered talking with me, so I’d never said a word—not ever—but I knew how to listen. They’d all lived before, had memories to share, had lives to look forward to.
They danced around the trees and fire, drank until they fell over laughing, and when the time came to sing gratitude for immortality, a few glanced at me, and the clearing was so eerie quiet you could hear the waterfall crashing on rocks a league south.
Li took me home, and the next day I collected all the words I knew and made a sentence. Everyone else remembered a hundred lifetimes before this one. I had to know why I couldn’t.
“Who am I?” My first spoken words.
“No one,” she said. “Nosoul.”
You can download the opening chapters HERE.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
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