Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Incarnate is the Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel by Jodi Meadows. It is the first in a series called the “Newsoul” trilogy. For five thousands of years in Range, one million souls have been reborn over and over again, always keeping their memories from their previous lifetimes. But then Ana is born. When she is born another soul vanishes, and no one knows why. Ana is a newsoul; the first newsoul in five thousand years.

However, many others, including her mother, Li, thinks Ana is a “nosoul,” doomed to live only one life and then die, not really capable of a life with any meaning. But also a “nosoul” is a harbinger of evil things to come. In shame, Ana’s father abandons the family and Li flees from the city of Heart to raise her daughter in seclusion. At 18, Ana leaves her home and goes to Heart to try and discover why she was born and the meaning in her life. Ana is not alone in her world; her friend Sam is with her. Sam thinks Ana is a “newsoul” and is worthy of living a full and loved life.

Ms. Meadows has gone out of her way to create a really new and different world in this book. Range is a dimension, not a planet and is populated with one million people who are reincarnated over and over. This is a very interesting idea; imagine what Shakespeare or Einstein could have done with millions of years, not just one short lifetime. Also in this world are magical creatures like dragons, and sylphs. Range also has a silent god, Janan, who controls reincarnation.

Ana’s voyage of self-discovery pulls at the emotions. She is always addressing universal subject matter, like what is the meaning of my life? These questions have already been answered for everyone else in Range, because they have all lived for such a long time.

Ana is a likeable character and is badly treated by the others in the book. Her mother, Li, is downright cruel and borderline abusive to Ana. Many of the citizens of Heart shun her in fear that she will infect them and they will not be reincarnated (literally a fate worse than death to the citizens of Range). Meanwhile, Sam treats her like something valuable and holy. After Ana discovers that Sam is the reincarnation of Dossam, the musician whose compositions were her only comfort while growing up, she falls deeply in love with him.

The book ends very abruptly. One moment Sam and Ana are being set on by vicious dragons and the next moment it is all over. Then Ana finds some surprising and revealing information about her manifestation and why she was born at all and then the book is just done. There is almost no analysis and even less discussion of what had happened and the prospective implications the information will have. Of course, as the first book in a series this abrupt ending really only served to set up the next book in the set, which will, hopefully, answer some of the questions.

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