Book Review: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows

January 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

In the land of Range, souls are reborns across thousands of years, a million souls that all know each other, that all carry the knowledge of hundreds of lifetimes.
Ana is new.
No one knows why or how, only that she is a new soul, a replacement for another who wasn’t reborn. Some call her a thief, or a bad omen. Some call her a wonder. Many call her nosoul. But a journey to the city of Heart, and a library that contains all the knowledge of those million souls, may give her the first clues into the mystery of her birth. She just has to survive the journey, the sylph and dragon attacks, the people who may or may not be trying to kill her…and a love as painful and tentative as it is wondrous.

I first talked about this book a few months ago in one of my Cover Love posts, and oh, you guys, I am so glad I snagged an advance of this one. I can normally do the responsible thing and put the books down for bedtime when I have to work the next morning, especially if I know it’s going to be a really active-need-all-thought-capacities-in-place kind of day, but there was no putting this one down until it was done. I stayed up waaaaaaaay too late because I could not stop reading this book.

This is a story steeped in a history from which we always feel slightly removed. It’s all around us, we learn about it, but we’re always a step apart because Ana is. What others simply remember, she has to learn. Ana as a character is beautifully layered, her personal history evident in almost everything she does, in the way she reacts to everything she encounters. This is a girl whose instincts have been absolutely brutalized by years of emotional (and physical) abuse, someone who has been completely cut off from others and can therefore only base her expectations for their behavior off of the one person she does know: her mother, Li, who was spent her entire life savaging her, hating her, for what she is and reminding her again and again that she’s a worthless nosoul, a thief incapable of any real feeling or accomplishment. Though Ana doesn’t want to believe it, though she rails against it, she does believe it. It’s a part of her, a convinction of her own lack of self worth that makes it extremely difficult for her to trust other people, that makes it very hard for her to have faith that she’s not being mocked or set up to fail. She’s bristly and defensive, overwhelmed and a little bit snarly about all the things she doesn’t know, but there are times- amazing, heart-warming moments- where she gets to experience something with a child’s sense of unfettered wonder.

The relationship between Ana and Sam is a difficult one, beautifully so, because it takes a long time for there to be anything approaching equal footing between them. Sam is thousands of years of experience and memories and relationships in an eighteen year old body. Ana is simply eighteen. The things he takes for granted she’s never come up against before, but the delight he finds in her accomplishments is overshadowed by her interpretation of mockery. He rarely outright lies to her but he keeps things from her constantly; he’s dishonest not just with her but also with himself, about his feelings for her, about what it could mean. It’s a relationship built off of a lot of misunderstandings, with moments fraught with tension that suddenly explodes, and it forces both of them to stretch and adapt in unaccustomed ways. The souls in Range have known each other for thousands of years, been connected in nearly every way possible over hundreds of lifetimes, but Ana is something new- which means that what’s between her and Sam is something entirely new as well, and that can be as terrifying and awkward and unwieldy as it is wonderful.

I think what really made me fall in love with this book as hard as I did was the music. Music carries the stories, carries the characters. I grew up with music as an extremely important part of my life, a part of pretty much everything I did, but the ability to write music, to craft it, is something that’s always eluded me. It’s astonishing to me that people can hear these gorgeous compositions inside their head and be able to translate it. Really even just the ability to put it together is staggering to me. The love of music is something Ana and Sam share, and even more, it’s a way they can find common ground, a way they can express themselves past the ability of words. It’s a solid, strong connection between them, a language all of its own, and it’s beautifully worked through both of their lives and the story itself.

It’s a beautifully crafted book, one built on a unique premise and a strong execution, one with an amazing world full of deadly creatures and walls with heartbeats, where hundreds of lifetimes still aren’t enough to teach a person all there is to know about the human spirit.

Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows, hits stores on 31 January 2012, so definitely check it out, and check back here during release week for my part of a VERY COOL blog tour celebrating the release. Trust me, guys, this tour is one thing you don’t want to miss, with lots of awesome prizes and giveaway chances, plus fun things to do across a lot of stops.

Until next time~

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