Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Rating: BUY IT!
Incarnate was one of those books that I was honestly terrified to start, because I had heard so many fantastic things about it. I was afraid that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations.
I was wrong.
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 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?
As an enormous fan of fantasy, it was refreshing to be able to fully immerse myself in such a richly developed world and perspective.
Smooth, natural world-building is one of the most difficult yet most rewarding aspects of a novel. Even before truly knowing the characters, I was already in love with the world of Incarnate. We learned about Range and Heart, the dangers of the world, the reincarnations and past lives, and the terror of sylph, all through Ana’s interactions with the world. As she experienced something, we did too.
Even better, Ana was experiencing most of life for the first time. In many ways, her perspective was synchronized with the perspective of the reader. As such, we got a fresh view on everything in the world, rather than an omniscient general description.
These bits of Incarnate were some of my favorite moments. Many common aspects of life and social interaction are entirely new to Ana, aspects that we readers, and all the other characters, take for granted. Have you ever thought about what it’s like to receive a hug for the first time? Jodi Meadows does a magnificent job of re-imagining these interactions, something that really helps Ana’s world to feel real.
Despite being new to the world, Ana is far from a weak female protagonist. Although sometimes I got upset at her for reacting poorly to people’s actions, I was thrilled that she wouldn’t take shit from anyone. She may be new, surrounded by people who have known each other for thousands of years, but she won’t let anyone tell her that she doesn’t deserve to be treated with respect. Go Ana!
Not all of the other souls were mean to Ana. Sam and Stef were both fantastic characters, and full of all the depth you’d expect from someone who has lived for 5000 years. One of the most interesting parts of characters is that they’ve been reincarnated as both male and female. There could be a huge analysis regarding gender psychology of here, but that’s not my area. I’ll just say that it made all the characters have much more complexity.
Incarnate is the beginning of a trilogy, but it was, in my opinion, how every first book should be. It had a proper climax and conclusion, and a satisfying ending, yet questions were left open and unanswered. Although we learn, generally, why Ana was born, even more questions are raised about how everyone else was born. Even the 5000-year-old souls don’t know their own origin story. They have a religious system, yet no full explanation, and many very important questions about how things came to be.
What we do know, however, is all that a million souls have seen over 5000 years, enough to show an essential overview of Earth-like evolution. In fact, many Earthen situations are subtly woven into the world, not enough to feel stolen, but just enough to, again, have a thoroughly realistic world.
If you can’t tell, I really really like the world Jodi Meadows has crafted. I can’t wait to reread Incarnate and to learn more about the world in book two!
You can go buy Incarnate now at your local bookstore! (And who wouldn’t want this beautiful cover gracing their bookshelves?!)
And, as a special treat, we have an interview with Jodi Meadows herself, answering a few questions about books, writing, and Incarnate! Stay tuned to check it out!