Review : Incarnate
What it’s about :
Ana lives in Range, a place where souls are being reincarnated in different bodies, over and over. No one ever really dies, and the souls keep their memories from one life to the other.
That is, until one night one soul vanished, and Ana was born instead. Living with her abusive mother, Ana has always considered herself a “No soul”, an abomination that shouldn’t be. But when she finally leaves home in a quest for answers, Ana meets Sam, and she begins to consider that maybe being a “New soul” is not all bad.
My Thoughts :
What an interesting premise and an intriguing world Jodi Meadows has created with Incarnate! Though this strange world was a tad difficult to get into for the first few pages (it wasn’t clear to me if the book was fantasy, science-fiction, futuristic, etc), I was quickly hooked to Ana’s story. Her world was new, different from the ones I usually read about, real or imagined. I also had a lot of compassion for what was happening with her mother, an abusive woman who basically blamed Ana for the disappearance of another soul.
It is quite obvious, when Ana meets Sam, that romance will be had in the story. While romance by itself isn’t a bad thing, this is where, for me, the book lost most points. Though Sam and Ana do spend a lot of time together, we are not allowed to see enough of their friendship and their romance feels a bit forced. From that point on, they spend a lot of time thinking about each other, looking at each other, being with each other… and sadly the romance takes over other aspects of the story which were, in my opinion, more interesting. I wanted to learn more about the big city of Heart, the world of Range, the legends, the characters surrounding the two lovebirds, Ana’s story, etc. I will say that despite the romance, there still is a lot of information about the world, just less than I would have hoped for.
An interesting aspect of the novel was, of course, the reincarnation, and with that, gender. This came as a surprise for me, as I didn’t know which form the reincarnations would take in the story. In Incarnate, souls can be reincarnated as man or woman. This raises important questions on what is gender? A pure biologic function? Social conventions? A mix of both or something else? The novel doesn’t directly raise those questions, but I couldn’t read it without my brain wondering about this constantly. If two souls decide to be linked forever together (as some do), and come back in other lives in a different gender, wouldn’t that affect their relationship? Or maybe the constant cycle of reincarnations gives them a more open point of view on gender? Maybe they see it simply as another characteristic, like eye color, hair color, height, etc?
I don’t have an answer, and the book doesn’t either. I’m not sure if the author simply didn’t think that far, or if she wanted her readers to make their own ideas. What would it be to be Ana in this world, born only once as a woman? Would it feel normal to have a boyfriend who was once a girl? If the society you grow up in is used to that, would you be too? I don’t know. This makes my brain hurt a little.
Which probably means that Incarnate offers something that many YA novels of speculative fiction don’t offer (sadly), and that is : interesting topics of discussion. I think there is a lot to be said about a world where you can reincarnate, forever, and keep your memories. What makes life worth living then? What would change in our daily lives? And there is, as I pointed out, a lot to be said about gender too.
There was also a slight issue with pace; after a lot of the romance between Sam and Ana, things suddenly start happening towards the end, when there is a rush of events and a few twists. I wouldn’t have minded this discrepancy in paces if the slowest part wasn’t so focused on the romance. Other than that, I did enjoy the story, the characters, the world, and the conclusion. I’m looking forward to reading more about Ana and her world in the coming novels.
Series Reading Order :