Saturday, April 14, 2012

Incarnate: Where am I again?

By Jodi Meadows
Hardcover, 384 pages
Katherine Tegen Books, January 31, 2012

New soul
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.

No soul
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?

This is the third book read in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by the Story Siren.

I wish I could say I loved it, but I don't.  The premise had so much promise: reincarnated souls, dragons, mystery, romance...and yet sometime after the first few chapters, the story went....nowhere.

Anna is raised as a "nosoul": a soul that is not considered viable since she hasn't lived over and over again. The souls that do reincarnate have lived among each other for thousands of years. When Anna meets Sam (technically a thousand plus years old...remind you of anyone else?), Sam sees something unique in her as they both try to solve the mystery behind Anna's birth.

Well, this so-called mystery was so overshadowed by the awkward romance between Sam and Anna that I didn't even know what the story was about anymore. About 85% of the time, I was trying to understand the relationship between Sam and Anna: in one scene Anna challenges him; the next she wants a kiss. The dialogue was so rough and choppy that at times, I had to reread the page just to understand what they were even talking about which pretty much consisted of either: a) music b) danger or c) pondering their relationship. Which, I never really did find out why Sam was so spoiler (hesitant to get involved with Anna). Was it their age difference? Society's view of him? Apparently that one detail wasn't important to the story...

My main disappointment was that the theme of reincarnation was so poorly explored and confusing. The souls of Incarnate's world are asexual in nature which seems so at odds with what I understand the soul to be. A soul can be a man in one life, a woman the next, then a son, then a mother. Does that mean gender is purely physical and not part of who you are? That's hard for me to understand. I keep thinking about circumstances in today's world where there are individuals who adamantly feel like they are in the "wrong" physical body.

Also, what about their society? How does being reincarnated affect the way people treat each other? We only get glimpses of how Sam and his friends know information about each other but we don't get to see how life would be different when you've known everyone for thousands of years. 

Also, who this all powerful Janan God and how or why does he have control over the souls? yet, another mystery not clearly addressed. Where do the "new" souls come from if Janan is the "God?"

Oh, and the big reveal at the end? The clue to Anna's very existence? My mouth hung open: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THa...THAT's. IT?! That's what I read 370 pages to find out? spoiler (that Janan inhabits the temple and when he's poisoned, the souls can't reincarnate--and thus 'newsouls' are born). It almost seemed like all the stuff in-between was purposefully drawn out because the climax was too simple non-existent.

Sadly, a book I can't recommend to anyone.

Rated 1 Zombie Bite.

Incarnate is available in bookstores everywhere.

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