Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Trade (Rani)
*Note: Check out Rani's blog! She's been a presence on Twitter but she just started a book blog!*
NEWSOUL 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. NOSOUL 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 suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? HEART 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.
From what I've seen in the blogosphere and in buzz is that this is a pretty hot little book. Everybody seems to want it because everybody seems to love it. One reason might be because its such a new concept. Reincarnation has been played with in books such as Fallen but nothing has really gone so far with it.
It's been much too long since I've read such a high fantasy book that I didn't really know what to expect. It has a bit of a dystopian air to it, similar to Uglies but lighter. The world-building in this book was fantastic, so that really added to the high fantasy experience.
The one thing that really clinches the high fantasy aspect of the book is that it's explained almost immediately. However, I don't know how Meadows did this but she managed to pace the flow of information that we were getting. It wasn't overwhelming, and we weren't left out of the loop. Everything was clear and understandable soon, but intricate.
I wasn't expecting this book to actually be this good. I had heard great things about it, but to me it just looked like any other book. I'm so glad that I picked it up though because I started to read it and couldn't put it down. I read it on the plane to Montana and was completely engrossed. The writing style and plot just keep it the perfect read for any occasion.
The characters were much stronger than I expected them to be, and actually stuck out to me. After thousands of books, it gets harder and harder for a character like the protagonist to stick out and set a new standard. Ana reminded me of Juliette from Shatter Me and Nikki from Everneath. Although she had similarities to other characters, she managed to stay completely unique.
I really enjoyed the different creatures pulled up in this book. Nobody ever talks about sylphs or dragons (well, some dragons but not like these) in YA. Vampires, werewolves, fey, etc,. are usually the norm. It's nice to have new concepts pulled out and used in these books.
The premise itself was mesmerizing.
Eighteen years ago, the temple went dark. Everybody was expecting Ciana to come back, like everybody does. In this utopian society, each of five million souls is reincarnated after death in different bodies, retaining all their memories, each with a different niche. So what happens when Ana is born?
Ana was a completely new soul. Ciana didn't come back; instead, Ana took her place. Many perceive Ana's birth as an omen. Their god is finally punishing them. Ana's future is uncertain, but each is certain that her presence is dangerous. On her eighteenth birthday, Ana sets out for Heart. Heart is the capitol city of the Range.
She wants to know more about herself. Why was she born? How did reincarnation work? Why were people incarnated? Her father left her, and her mother was abusive, taunting her because she believed she had no soul.
Ana has been completely alone until she meets Sam, the one boy who is convinced that she isn't a mistake. There was a reason that Ana was there. Sam is convinced that Ana is good and lovely, and is determined to make Ana feel that way herself. But when dragons and sylph attack the city, will everything they know come crashing down?
Ana is almost completely alone. "Almost" because she has finally found one person who believes in her. Because of her "nosoul" status, she encounters prejudice and judgement everywhere she goes. People fear her, believing her to be a symbol of worse things to come. It could mean the end of the world as they know it. Still others are curious about her and take every opportunity to pry into her life and discover things about her. Ana takes small comforts in things. She has practically been abused her entire life by a mother who hates her. Her mother punishes her for reading and loving music. Her mother has ingrained in her that she cannot love because nosouls are incapable of love. She shrinks away from what she has been taught may hurt her and she's hungry for knowledge.
Ana's existence is much more fragile than everybody else's. For them, they have the promise of returning and keeping the same lives. Eternity is guaranteed for them, but not for her. Nobody knows if she will ever be reborn again, so people tiptoe around the topic of her death. Some want her dead while others would rather have her alive simply to use as an experiment. Nobody sees her as a person.
The experiences that Ana had to go through reminded me of Juliette from Shatter Me and Nikki from Everneath. While she did have many similarities to many other characters, she had a spirit that made her completely unique. Whether this was intentional or not, she had a different soul that was passionate and loving and strong. Her personality was contagious.
She is extremely wise. Knowing those terrible truths about the way people perceived her would be damaging to anybody but she's determined to live life to the fullest. A huge part of this book was dependent on Ana's uniqueness because it was another reminder that her existence was wrong to people. In spite of her rough upbringing, she is strong. She's creative and shy and she has very admirable qualities and she came across as a great person in general. We need more heroines like Ana.
Sam is the boy in love with Ana. He is the person who makes her believe that her soul is good. He destroys the term "nosoul" and tells her that she has a soul, it's simply a "newsoul". She is a person just like the rest of them. He knew how to trust even people who didn't trust themselves. His passion for music was incredible and he gave everything to it.
The only hesitation I had with Sam was that he tried to solve people's problems without asking them first. He didn't allow Ana to help him many times, or would omit something from her for her safety. I don't like it when characters do this in books because why should they choose somebody else's decisions? But other than that, he was extremely likable.
He and Ana were different but they were like mirror images of each other. They had symmetry in their personality, beliefs, and activities. They were like two halves of one whole, (excuse the metaphor) like the very butterflies brought up in this book.
There was one thing about Sam and Ana that made me snicker like a fourth grader. Excuse the mild immaturity, but imagining Sam in a dress gave me stitches in my side, I was laughing so hard. Apparently as a woman, he was very chesty. The image of him in a dress and lipstick was priceless. Ana wore his old clothes! It was strange to work out the kinks of the reincarnation, but it was funny. Sorry for that brief lapse in maturity.
The pacing of this book was wonderful. Like I mentioned at the beginning of my review, everything was explained clearly and easily at the beginning of the book. The reincarnation process and world-building was elaborated even more throughout the book in the same sort of fashion. We took in a lot of information throughout the book but we could understand it easily and it was all relevant. I loved the imaginative things in this book! Some of it was based on myth (like the creatures) but other parts were incredibly put together and I had never heard anything like it before.
The aspect of reincarnation in this book was very important. The basic premise of this book was reliant upon one of the souls in the cycle of reincarnation being replaced by Ana. Friends of this soul and people worried that they could be next alienated Ana because of this. Doubts swirled in Ana and Sam's heads because they were unsure whether she would come back. There were laws about Ana's death that even she didn't know about because of this uncertainty. People came back in any form: tall, short, male, female, white black, fat, skinny...they were completely different. The reincarnation aspect was approached similarly to how it was in Blue Bloods with each person coming back in only a few years, still recognizable and retaining their memories.
There was one romanticism of the reincarnation though. It took a whole new meaning to the expression "soul mates". It meant that no matter what form somebody was in, if you were meant to be together, you would recognize their soul. The soul stayed the same no matter which body you were in. It was a sweet concept and I enjoyed hearing about it.
Which brings us to another point: the romance. The actual romance in this book was perfectly described. It started as admiration, friendship, passion, and then truly could they be considered "soul mates". Sam and Ana were meant to be together, and there were complications because of her status. Sam was the only person who truly believed in her no matter what happened and their romance together was all-consuming. It's inspiring love stories like these that remind me of why I read paranormal romance. I read contemporary too, but there's something incredible about love encompassing death and continuing on forever.
Forever is a strange thing to think about and this book brought up many questions. What if what you thought was forever wasn't? What if you took it for granted and it wasn't there anymore? What happened to the souls that left? There were some deep questions about love, life, and souls in the book that really made you think. This book would make an enjoyable read and a great book club read for teens, or adults that enjoy reading YA.
I must admit that I wasn't expecting this book to have as much action as it did. Or to have pulled it off so well. The descriptions of the dragons and sylph attacking the city clutched you in its terror. The action scenes were intense and filled with fear and extremely well written. They weren't random, or put to punctuate long lulls. They had points to them. Everybody staring at this book and thinking it's a sappy romance, look again.
The supporting characters were fantastic. Each person exhibited a different response towards Ana. Some were wary while some blindly accepted her. There were those who were kind and mean and people judged her who had never met her. Stef was a particular favorite of mine, but there were so many more who I really hope that we see more of.
Incarnate was a unique story with strong characters, a wholesome romance, and enough danger to keep anybody satisfied. While its world building and high fantasy aspect make it stand out, this book has the potential to be a trendsetter. I look forward to reading more of Jodi Meadow's work and I can't wait for this book to come out so I can force it into the hands of everybody I know.
Recommended for fans of: Everneath; Dragon Slippers; Blue Bloods; Shatter Me; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
If you were reincarnated, who do you think you would have been in a past life?How did music link Sam and Ana together? Do you think they would have had the same connection without it?How does the theme of butterflies tie into the book? When is it exhibited?Why are people afraid of things that they don't know?If you could choose, would you choose to be reincarnated with the people you love?If you knew you would be reincarnated, would you change how you live? How?How does knowing that there's an end make you live more? How is Ana's quality of life different from the other souls? etc,.