Book Review: Incarnate

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"New soul. 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.

No soul. 
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?"

Incarnate is not what I expected, and honestly, it surprised me by getting better as it went along. Jodi Meadows clearly considered the premise from all directions before diving in, and I found myself wanting to read more, even as this (first book in the series) ended.

Ana is sometimes annoying- let's just get that out there, first off. BUT, it's easy to see why she's hyper-defensive. And easy to see why Sam is super patient with it. Every time I started rolling my eyes, I was reminded that in this world, only a million people exist and they've been reincarnated each a hundred times or more. So compared to their memories and experience, Ana is the ultimate outsider, and basically on toddler level.

I also have a HUGE appreciation for Jodi Meadows giving Ana some physical awkwardness. Oftentimes teenage female protagonists while insist that they are bumbling, but rarely do they even trip. Ana falls down and miscalculates distances and it hurts when she bangs her knees on the ground. Ana is the most honestly-written teenager I've read in a very long time: all desperation, physical awkwardness, insecurity, momentary flashes of pure empowerment, impatience, misunderstanding, self-centered and dramatic but always trying to do the right thing...I really liked her.

Sam....less so. Their romance felt a little bit forced on his end. I understand where she's coming from, 100%. But for a guy who is subject to teenage hormones but with the wisdom and experiences of a thousand feels like the only thing drawing him to Ana is the fact that she's new while everyone else is stagnant. And that makes me sad, because if that's true, it means his fascination will eventually fade, and Ana doesn't need to be toyed with.

Naturally, I wanted to get inside Stef's head, as the character I would try to be, if I were in that world. MORE STEF!

Okay, in addition to that, I was impressed with the handling that gender and age mean very little in the universe of Incarnate. Souls seem attached to a personality, more or less, including likes/interests, fears, etc. I also feel like we've been teased with potential truths and half-truths that we're sussing out a wee bit faster than Ana is. So I'm looking forward to reading Book 2!

I recommend this for fans of fantasy YA, realistic teenage female protagonists, the transporting power of music, the concept of reincarnation, clean romance, and well-written YA stories in general.

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