Imagine a world where when you die, you have the absolute certainty that you will come back, reincarnated in a new body, male or female. This is the world of Incarnate. There had always been a total of one million souls in Range, until the day that Ciana died and their temple went dark. Five years later, when everyone was expecting Ciana to come back, instead a new soul was born. Someone who had never been born before, someone not reincarnated.
Ana spends her childhood sheltered, living in shame away from Heart, the city where she was born. Seen as a threat because she replaced Ciana and the looming uncertainty if this will happen to others as well. Her mother, Li, treats her with cruelty and contempt and all Ana has to look forward to is the day when she can finally leave Li and go off on her own back to heart to search for answers about why and how she was born. On her way she is attacked and almost drowns, only to be saved by a boy of her same age in his current body, but who has been reincarnated many times. An old soul.
Ana is reluctant at first to accept any help, because she is so used to being treated badly, like she isn't worth anything, but Sam starts to slowly gain her trust and takes care of her until they finally make the trip back to Heart to search for the answers Ana so desperately wants. Once they arrive at Heart, Ana gets to finally meet people, besides her mother and the people who seldom visited them, and is regarded differently by different people. There are those who hate her because the see her as the reason Ciana didn't come back and a constant reminder that at any point any of them could be replaced, and those who befriend her, because after all, it's not her fault she was born.
While in Heart, Ana embarks in a mission to learn as much as she can about the past and why she came to be. Unsure of whether she herself will be reincarnated, Ana is constantly reminded of her questionable immortality by those in charge. The land where they live is often attacked by creatures such as dragons and sylph, and though others could fight with confidence that if they die, they can at least come back, Ana cannot just doesn't have that luxury. Ana starts to discover things about the city and it's leaders that put her at risk. Someone apparently doesn't want Ana snooping around the archives and asking questions, for fear of what she might actually uncover.
I was interested in this strange world with strange creatures. I found myself trying to figure out all the things that can possibly go wrong with people being reincarnated all the time, in different bodies and different genders. Even the book mentions how some people were not allowed to breed because of fear of strange genetic conditions popping up. Someone who was your mother in a previous life could end up being your boyfriend in another, and the fact that you got to retain your memories from all your past lives makes for an awkward situation. Definitely kept me scratching my head trying to make sense of it all while I read the book. I identified with the main character in the sense that she was always treated like a child, and that frustrated her to no end, because she was not clueless or hopeless, she was just inexperienced. I know the feeling.
I think this book was a good read. It's not something I would wait in line at B&N for, but definitely a good, entertaining story that presents a unique type of future. There is no reference to the past as a fallen society, so I'm unsure if this qualifies as a dystopia. Nevertheless, I give it 3 stars and a recommendation to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy read.
(Originally reviewed at JJiReads.blogspot.com)