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Saturday, January 28, 2012

ARC Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

TITLE: Incarnate                             SERIES: Newsoul #1
AUTHOR: Jodi Meadows               PUB DATE: 1/31/12
PUB: Harper Collins                         FORMAT: ARC, 372 pgs
SOURCE: from publisher for review

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? 

THREE WORDS: Mesmerizing, Original, Stunning

MY REVIEW: So, obviously the first thing one notices about Jodi Meadow’s Incarnate is the beyond beautiful cover, but trust me, once you finish this book, it’ll be the fabulous story inside that will leave you enchanted and mesmerized.

For 5,000 years in Range, the souls of a million people have been constantly reincarnated. In each life, a soul gains a new body but retains all its past memories and experiences. But Ana is new; she has no past lives. Dubbed a Nosoul, the people of Range fear her. Kept isolated and hidden away by her abusive mother, Ana has no friends and is desperate to understand just why she was born. At 18, Ana sets out for the city of Heart where she hopes to find the answers she seeks. Along the way she meets Sam, her first real friend. Sam doesn’t think Ana is a Nosoul, simply a Newsoul. With Sam as a friend, protector and guardian, Ana enters Heart, even if its citizens are less than welcoming. As Ana searches for answers about who and what she is, she must battle her feelings for Sam, hostile souls and fantastical creatures, and she ends up discovering things she never expected.

Incarnate is truly captivating, and often breathtakingly so. Meadows has created a wonderfully original, grand and well developed story. The exploration of reincarnation is, of course, nothing new, but Meadows has taken this concept to places I’ve never seen, and I found her ideas completely fascinating.

Nicely paced, the story never rushes or drags. The story moved fast enough to never feel boring, but slow enough to allow me to really get to know its world and characters, both which are incredibly absorbing. The world Meadows creates is vivid, concrete and entirely believable.

There’s a compelling mix of fantasy, romance, dystopia, sci-fi, mystery and action, and Meadows does a great job of harmonizing and balancing all these elements. I really loved Meadow’s take on reincarnated souls, although this idea isn’t explored without its faults. The actual concept of reincarnation in this book, and all that it entails, is quite complex and at times making it overwhelming. I think overall the concept is explained and explored efficiently, but there were still things that left me slightly confused…such as, are these million souls and people in Range the only people in the entire world? And throughout the book it seems that all these people-all one million of them-seem to know or at least know of each other to the extent of being able to recognize who one is (and know of their accomplishments, work, etc) simply by their name, which I found hard to believe. I mean even after thousands of years it seems implausible for a person to “know” 999,999 people…right?!

 I found much of the exploration of souls, life, love, etc. in this book to be quite thought-provoking and profound. Personally, I loved the way that souls in Range could and would often switch genders from life to life and that, although the souls retained most of their memories, experiences and personality traits, they evolved and changed emotionally, mentally and psychologically from life to life and body to body. Meadows offers a fascinating and insightful look at the concept of souls in general. But I think the captivating and often deliciously startling and shocking story itself will appeal to readers, whatever one’s personal beliefs and thoughts concerning reincarnation may be.

I was disappointed that Ana’s search for answers regarding who and what she is wasn’t focused on more, especially since this seemed like such an integral part of the story in the beginning of the book. The ending provided a few nice twists and surprises, but it kind of felt lacking. But the ending does clear up a few mysteries while excitingly and enticingly setting up a few more.

The story is told from Ana’s perspective, so she really needs to be a likable and engaging character in order for readers to feel invested in the story…and she definitely is! I really enjoyed Ana as a character and I think she is wonderfully developed and written. She has a likable mix of strength, sass, vulnerability and relatability, and she’s easy to root for. I loved her natural curiosity, passion, and determination.

Sam is a fabulously swoon-worthy character. I love that he isn’t simply there for the sake of Ana’s development as a character; his story is just as intriguing and important as hers. There’s a lot of fun and exciting mystery surrounding Sam and I really liked that he wasn’t always easy to decipher, but that I always felt confident in believing in him.

There’s an eclectic and dynamic cast of supporting characters, many of whom I hope we get to know better in future books. There’s no real “bad guy” in this book, although there are characters that do bad things, and I found this disappointing. I was really hoping for a villain I could love to hate or hate to love.
When I first began reading this book, I was afraid that because of the story’s exploration of reincarnation, that the concept of soul mates would play a major role, which would thus lead to the dreaded insta love…but this didn’t happen!

The romantic relationship between Ana and Sam is definitely not intsa-love. This is a romance that we actually get to see develop and progress naturally. Although, I do think the whole “will they/won’t they” kiss/hold hands/become a couple/get be-zay was a little drawn out. But, in the end this was a romance that I truly enjoyed reading about.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Jodi Meadows’ Incarnate is a simply stunning debut. Although this isn’t a perfect book, it is an enchanting and enthralling read, and I’ll eagerly be awaiting the next book in the trilogy. Highly recommended!

4/5 Cupcakes

Find the author: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook
Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut.*A Kippy is a cat.


Lecea said...

Great review! I like how it seems to combine different YA genres.

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Okay. Gonna HAVE to save money so that I can splurge on this one. Every single review I've read has been positive! I think I am really going to enjoy it. :) And ooh. No insta-love! YAY. :D

Molli | Once Upon a Prologue