Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

 

Title: Incarnate

Author: Jodi Meadows

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

ISBN: 978-0062060754

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

NEWSOUL

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.

NOSOUL
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?

HEART
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?

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

Review:

Incarnate is one of the more hyped books for the winter, and I was very eager to dive into the narrative.  This is an interesting take on the dystopian genre, which is which is one of my favorites.  In Ana’s world, there are one million souls, and they have been re-incarnated for thousands of years.  When Ana is born, however, she is a new soul.  A nosoul.  Nobody knows where she came from.  People are a bit afraid of her.  In order for her to exist, another soul had to disappear, so people aren’t happy that she’s joined them.  Her life means someone else’s permanent death, and a shocking shake up of the status quo.

Ana is left in the care of her mother, Li, a fierce woman who wants nothing to do with her.  Unlike other children, Ana is a blank slate.  She has no memories of her previous lives, because she has none.  What a terrible disadvantage for her to have to deal with!  While her peers are heading off on their own to continue the lives that they had temporarily left, Ana has no skills, no prospects, no expectations of things getting better for her.  Li is a cruel and detached caregiver.  She doesn’t see the sense in putting any effort into her duty when Ana probably only has one life.  Why become invested in someone who will only be around for the blink of an eye.

This is the aspect that I found the most fascinating about the book.  Everyone is thousands of years old. Everyone has a history with everyone else.  Everyone but Ana.  She is truly an infant to these people; young, ignorant, a disturbance in their carefully ordered society.  She doesn’t fit anywhere, and people are not shy about letting her know that.  They are dismissive of her, because they don’t know if she will be reincarnated after she dies, and they don’t think it’s worth their time to get to know her for her blip of a life.  The concept of a life not being worth much because it will likely be only about 70 years is a little disturbing.  While I understand the point of view of the citizens of Heart, I just can’t reconcile myself to anyone’s life being insignificant or worthless.  What a sobering concept for me.

I did find Ana occasionally trying.  After Sam saves her life and becomes her guardian, Ana worried about him treating her the same way Li did.  Sam never once showed an inclination to slap, hit, or otherwise punish her, so when she continued to shy away from him and push him away after spending so much time under his protection, I started to get a sense of overkill.  Li was a horrible mother; we got that message from the first chapter, when she gives Ana a broken compass and sends her on her journey to Heart – in the wrong direction. 

That one quibble was about my only complaint with this story.  I loved the world-building, and found the concept of everyone being continually reincarnated fascinating.  I also loved the mix of fantasy creatures that harried the people of Range.  I am looking forward to the next installment of the series, because I have so many questions that weren’t answered in Incarnate, and I am hopeful that some of them will be addressed in the next book.  Most important – where did everyone come from, and how are they being reincarnated?

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards


 

Title: The Book of Wonders

Author: Jasmine Richards

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062010070

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sorcerers, Cyclops, Djinnis . . . Magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone who is caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying tyrant who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.

When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must risk everything to rescue her. Along with Rhidan, who is her best friend, and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.

Review:

I spent most of my holiday vacation reading.  I am amazed by all  of the great stories I was able to enjoy during my time away from work.  The Book of Wonders is one of the titles that I devoured, and I literally spent most of a day flipping the pages of this fun middle-grade adventure.  An exciting spin on the 1001 Nights, there is plenty of action, adventure, and death-defying feats to keep readers entertained.  I liked the characters, especially the spunky Scheherazade (nicknamed Zardi).  She managed to get herself into, and back out of, an alarming amount of trouble over the course of the book.  With her best friend’s help, she remained surprising unscathed even during the most trying of circumstances.

Zardi lives with her family and her best friend, Rhidan, in the city of Taraket.  Her country is ruled by the evil sultan, Shahryar, who has outlawed all magic from his kingdom.  He is a cruel and vicious ruler, and he delights in the discomfort and pain of others.  When Zardi’s older sister, Zubeyda, is chosen to be the sultan’s next praisemaker, Zardi knows only fear.  The career of each praisemaker is terrifyingly short, and each ends with a hunt.  Zubeyda will be tracked down and killed!  Zardi is determined save her gentle sister from this cruel fate, and she will risk her life to save her!

This is a fast-paced read, with one frantic adventure following another.  With the help of Rhidan, Zardi leaps into the adventure of a lifetime.  She thinks that the key to saving her sister is finding the Varish, a group of rebels threatening to overthrow the sultan and return Aladdin, the rightful ruler, to the throne.  Rhidan, who was abandoned by his family and raised  by Zardi’s family, believes that the sorcerers of the Black Isle will hold the key to his true identity, as well as help save Zubeyda.  And so the two sneak away in the middle of night, and soon find themselves working on Sinbad’s ship.

I thought Zardi was a fun character.  She refused to allow anything to get in the way of saving her sister.  Not even being a shipwreck,  the Cyclops, or the queen of snakes could deter her from her goal.  Each new challenge was met with the grim knowledge that she could not fail, or her sister would die.  This thought kept Zardi and Rhidan’s trials even more exciting, because if they took too much time to get out of each new scrape, there wouldn’t be enough time left to save Zubeyda.  This really cranked up the tension!  I didn’t want Zubeyda to die any more than Zardi did!  Her frustration with delays rang true, as did her desperation to do anything to save her sister.  I couldn’t have been as brave, but failure wasn’t an option for Zardi, so she firmly stifled all of her fears and charged head first into each new challenge.

If there is one element to the story that I did not enjoy, if was the sultan’s one-dimensional character.  I wish that he had been just a little more fleshed out, instead of just being a convenient catalyst to jump-start Zardi and Rhidan’s journey.  He needed a backstory, or something to make him just a tiny bit sympathetic; instead, he is just evil, evil, evil, and that made him a little boring.

I think that with the strong adventure elements, The Book of Wonders will appeal to both boys and girls.  It’s hard to resist the pull of a good adventure story, and this one keeps galloping along, never allowing the reader to catch their breath.  While the story is satisfactorily wrapped up, there are enough open story threads that I am curious to follow Zardi and Rhidan on future outings.  There’s that Aladdin guy they never found, and Rhidan still has to learn more about who he truly is.  And how to control his powers.  I am looking forward reading more about both Rhidan and Zardi.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

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