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Radiant Shadows


Incarnate - I absolutely loved Incarnate...until I started thinking about it. As I thought about what I had liked, I realized that the well-developed romance that I had found endearing, was actually an obstacle that prevented the plot from progressing, the concept of reincarnation, while fascinating, was questionable in its explanation, and the world of Range was an unsuccessful mix of new-world technologies and old-world mythologies.I loved that Meadows attempted to take on such a complicated concept, and I was looking forward to seeing how her world reflected on our society and how she tackled some philosophical questions. How does one parent a child who has the wisdom of someone much older? How does the concept of murder change (does it change at all) and would there be consequences? How does possession change when one never truly dies? What would it do to someone's mental health to know they can never truly escape their problems, as they'll still be waiting for them in their next life? What toll does constant death and rebirth have on a person's psyche? How does giving birth to, or being married to, or parented by almost everyone you know affect the way you see those around you? I was disappointed when these types of questions were glazed over, IF they were even brought up.So surely she nailed the idea of reincarnation on the head then? Well...kind of. The full ramifications of reincarnation in Incarnate is quite overwhelming. While the concept is explained and explored satisfactorily, there were a few things that had me confused - either because I couldn't wrap my mind around the specifics, or because something just didn't make sense. The fact that there exists one millions souls, which are constantly recycled, is really hammered home throughout the book as it is mentioned repeatedly. The thing I didn't understand was how these million souls seemed to know each other - to the extent where they would recognize someone's name and be able to list their individual accomplishments. Even after thousands of years, it seems implausible for one person to know that many other people. This had me thinking that those people who resided within Heart must have been just a fraction of the entire population. But then where are the other people living? We're told repeatedly how dangerous the world is outside of Range, as there's dragons, trolls and sylphs, so how do these other people manage to survive? And if a fraction of the population doesn't live within Heart, then how would the Council know that Ana wasn't the first NewSoul? So while that explanation made the most sense (to me), it also opened up new obstacles to overcome that I was unable to find answers for.I did find the exploration of souls to be extremely thought-provoking. The fact that souls were reborn into both male and female forms brought up questions about love, life and sexuality. Ana questioned whether she would feel so strongly for Sam if he were to show up in a female form, and what that means for her feelings - would knowing Sam's soul was in a body be enough, or does she need him in this body to care for him? I loved how Meadows incorporated a rededication ceremony for the souls who vowed to stay loyal to each other, regardless of what form their bodies took with each life, and that their message was one of love which transcends the physical confines of our human shells. (However, I was definitely off-put by the idea of those same people committing suicide together, in order to be re-born around the same time, and that the people of Heart romanticized this idea). I loved that, while retaining their memories, experiences and personalities, the souls were also able to evolve and change with each rebirth - but it also had me questioning the hopelessness of their situation. For many people, death is seen as a welcome relief to the trials and tribulations of life, a new chapter through which they hope to gain peace (hopefully after a long and happy life). I can only imagine the kind of depression that might accompany knowing that this will always be your life - you will always be surrounded by the same people, who do the same things; you will always live in the same place, surrounded by the same walls, doing the same things you've been doing for thousands of years. I really feel like Meadows offered a captivating and insightful look at the concept of souls, and that any reader will find themselves fascinated by the ideas she has presented.Now that I'm done rambling about the philosophical ideologies behind reincarnation...on to the characters! I absolutely adored Ana. Years of both physical and mental abuse, while making her distrustful and bitter, have not broken her. She's bound and determined to set out on her own, in the hopes of discovering the truth behind her existence.I stood up and pretended to be brave.Having been told her entire life that she is a NoSoul, someone incapable of feeling, I was pleasantly surprised by how passionate and impulsive she was. She had the curiosity and passion for knowledge of a child, and she was constantly surprising Sam with her keen observations. Her past haunted her however, and her insecurities, buried only surface-deep, were constantly rearing their ugly head as she reminded herself about her lack of worth.Nosouls don't get friends. Neither do butterflies.I was an afterthought, five thousand years later. A mistake, because Ciana was gone. I was the dissonant note on the end of a masterpiece symphony. I was the brushstroke that ruined the painting.I did struggle with my concept of her - as I knew she was eighteen, but her inexperience reminded me of a child and it was hard at times not to see her that way (especially when she took everything personally, always assuming the worst). I enjoyed watching her grow as a person, and begin to realize her true worth as an individual.At first, I loved Sam. He seemed to genuinely care about Ana, and tried his best to get to know her, even when she spent all of her time pushing him away. I was surprised her sarcasm and mean remarks didn't try his patience, and have him regretting his decision to take her on as his student. As the book progressed however, the amount of secrets that he seemed to be hiding from Ana, secrets which affected her personally, became something I could no longer avoid. I hated that Ana never bothered to question his nightly disappearances, and that we never really found out where he was going after she had gone to sleep. His constant delaying of information was irritating, as it seemed like the issues he delayed dealing with were never resolved later. I understand that he found Ana fascinating, as her vigour for things he had long forgotten were exciting reignited his passion for them, but as he was so secretive, I never truly understood why he had romantic feelings for her. Their constant back and forth was as confusing for me as it was for Ana, as Sam never explained why it would be wrong for them to enter in to a romantic relationship. Don't get me wrong - he definitely put off a vibe that said he didn't think they should be together, even if that's what he wanted - but it's not until he pushes Ana to the point where she tells him he has to choose - either to be with her as just a friend or more - that he explains why the Council might have an issue with them being together. (On a side note, I wasn't sure how I felt about them being together, considering he's technically thousands of years old - it's a little creepy!)Creepiness aside, I did really enjoy watching Ana and Sam's relationship build. It developed almost frustratingly slow and a little awkwardly, full of almost-kisses and near-touches.Sam pulled out his SED. Light flashed, and I blinked away stars. "So I can keep you like this forever." He showed me the screen, which held an image of me grinning like an idiot.I really liked that Meadows used music as a bonding tool for Ana and Sam. As someone who is constantly touched by music, I had absolutely no problems relating to Ana's passion for, and connection to music.And suddenly I wasn't no one anymore. I was Ana who Had Music.A hundred or a thousand years after I died, someone could play my waltz, even Li, who'd always resented my presence, and they would remember me.Thanks to Sam, I was immortal.It was when they were together, making music, that I saw what they had to offer each other and the passion they ignited in each other.The world-building was subpar. There were so many things that just didn't make sense to me, which made it hard for me to believe the world Meadows had created. How big is Range? Is there civilization outside of Range or are the souls living in Heart the only souls on the planet? Is Range a new planet? Or is it a futuristic Earth? If Heart can withstand a dragon attack, why can't it handle people using cars? If they can create laser guns, why can't they create some type of street-light so they don't need flashlights after dark? If Heart is big enough to house a million souls, how can they all fit in the Market for the rededication ceremony? (Another reason I think there must be others outside of its walls) And if it's big enough to house a million souls, how can they possible get around on foot and not spend days travelling? How can walls of silk hold shelves? So many questions, with no answers in sight.As the ending neared, and I remembered there was a point to Ana coming to Heart that wasn't her romance with Sam, I realized that she had not been investigating her existence, like she had originally set out to do. Sure, there was the odd mention of her researching in the library, but it definitely was not the main focus of the plot. As the dragons descended on Heart and Ana ended up uncovering the reasons for her existence (and in effect, Ciana's permanent death), I couldn't help but feel disappointed. It was almost as if the ending was thrown together as an after-thought, which gave it a rushed and chaotic feeling. I was disappointed that more about the Temple (and Meuric's involvement with the Temple) and Janan hadn't been explained, that Ana was told about her history (rather than her being able to uncover the mysteries for herself) and that the reason for Ana's existence was so...unexciting. It was refreshing that we weren't left with a cliffhanger, but now I'm left wondering where the series will go.So while on the surface I really enjoyed Incarnate, the untouched philosophical questions, the forgotten plot and lacklustre ending has left a slightly bad taste in my mouth.Find this review and more, on my blog: Radiant Shadows