Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul (#1)
Published: January 31st, 2012
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.
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?
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?
In Heart, the same souls are reincarnated over and over again, keeping their memories and personalities. And then Ana is born -- a newsoul, a stranger -- and an old soul vanishes. She's treated apprehensively, allegedly having no soul at all, but decides to find out the truth about herself, with the help of Sam, the only person who's ever treated her like a person.
Incarnate was a pretty idea -- of a new girl in a world of people who've been together for hundreds of years, of the promise of reincarnation, of safety from a mystical world behind city walls -- but it felt too often like that was as far as it went. Like whenever you asked the guide if the show was starting soon, they'd distract you by pointing somewhere else like "have you seen this yet? This is interesting!".
Ana travels to Heart with the intention to figuring herself out -- both in search of the answers to her questions about her mystery soul, and to try to find who she is without the influence of her abusive mother treating her like less than a person. But post-arrival, her mission is only at the forefront of her mind when she isn't with Sam, which -- as his guest and with most citizens wary of her -- isn't often. I'm finding that the stories with the most potential are doing themselves a disservice by focusing majorly on the token romance (The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer, anyone?). Sweet as Ana and Sam were, their burgeoning relationship would have served better as a complement to the plot rather than a stand-in for it.
Though, to the author's credit, she manages to make Ana learning to play the piano or talking to Sam mostly compelling, only later noticing there was something missing once you find that piece near the end.
This very readable quality can be accredited to Meadow's writing style, subtly otherworldly and setting appropriate without being alienating, and though with its few inconsistencies (occasionally poorly articulated, and occasionally beautifully descriptive) it was mostly pleasant and smooth and didn't stray too far into inconsequential details.
Overall, Incarnate was a unique idea that felt like it succumbed too much to the existing YA market -- it focused more on an intriguing premise than an intriguing plot, and the romance dominated. The plot was squeezed and condensed so late that it was almost an afterthought, but it what of it was unexpected and twisting and had so much potential. I won't set my hopes so high come book two, but I'll most definitely continue this series.