Kim Vandervort's Reviews > Incarnate

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
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Nov 28, 2011

it was amazing
Read in November, 2011

** spoiler alert ** 18 year old Ana has grown up in a world where she is unique: the only one of a million souls who is a “newsoul,” a brand new spirit born into a world where everyone else has been reincarnated, lifetime after lifetime, for more than 500 years. Into each incarnation the reincarnated souls bring their knowledge and experience of past lives; what they do forget is easily refreshed by the journals they leave behind in the public library. But Ana represents a fresh start in a world where new souls have become not only improbable, but impossible. And her life represents not only the new and strange of an uncharted existence, but also the permanent loss of another soul who will never be reborn because Ana lives.

Incarnate is Ana’s story, and follows her quest to find out who she is and why she is a newsoul. More than that, Incarnate is a coming-of-age story, a romance, a story of recovery from abuse, a story of hopes and dreams and questions of faith, science, and reality.

When I first picked up the ARC of Incarnate, I had certain preconceived notions and expectations. For the past couple of years I have been on a YA dystopia reading binge, so I assumed that this novel would be in a similar vein: future dystopian society based on utopian ideals, in which the main character questions society and sparks a rebellion. As this, like so many other YA novels of late, is written in first person, I also had certain expectations about the character’s voice and maturity.

From the first page, all of my expectations were blown away. First and foremost, this isn’t a dystopian society. Incarnate is set in a fully realized fantasy world with its own culture, religion, social structure, and history, and this world is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I struggled a bit at first with some of the creatures and worldbuilding, until I realized that I was trying to fit this world and society into my preconceived notions about this world and my knowledge of traditional fantasy worlds. Once I let go of my expectations, I really enjoyed exploring Ana’s world, which is completely fresh and engaging. And that’s what I loved most about this book: a new world to explore and a plot that I could not predict.

Ana herself is an interesting heroine. Although there are certain elements of her character that feel like a modern stock YA heroine (I think the choice of first person doesn’t help differentiate her voice much), Ana’s background as an abused child makes her personal journey to discover who or what she is much more challenging and engaging. She is strong, yet she is flawed, and has to overcome some of her trust issues in order to move beyond her upbringing and join society. I did feel Ana lost some of herself and her independence when she became romantically involved with a certain character; her focus also seemed to shift from the mystery of her existence to more trivial matters of “who’s in love with whom.” However, once the action kicked up and the stakes became greater, Ana became a better blend of strength and vulnerability and avoided the pitfall of becoming a moony Bella Swan who thinks of nothing more significant than her love interest.

While the action and pacing were excellent for the most part, I was slightly disappointed in the end for a couple of reasons: first, the book doesn’t really end. Like most YA novels these days, this is the first in a trilogy, so the reader is forced to wait for answers to many of Ana’s most pressing questions. Second, the climax of the novel seemed to lack finesse. Characters only hinted at for most of the novel appeared out of nowhere to take part in the action, answers became new questions, and I ultimately felt that some elements of the story created unnecessary confusion, especially since readers will now have to make a long-term investment for those questions to be answered. Still, the finale did work overall, with lots of great action and suspense, and the loose ends didn’t distract me enough to destroy my overall enjoyment of the novel.

The writing itself is lyrical, well-paced, and pulled me through the story. I had a hard time putting the book down and finished within a couple of days; the combination of good storytelling, lovely writing, intriguing worldbuilding and good pacing pulled me through to the end. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong worldbuilding and thought-provoking fantasy that introduces complex questions of religion, rebirth, and existence. I’m already looking forward to the sequel!

Originally posted at http://spec-fic-chicks.blogspot.com/
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