My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“Incarnate” by Jodi Meadows, the first book in the Newsoul trilogy, was one of the biggest surprises in YA fantasy for me last year. I thought the premise was interesting, but the gorgeous writing and the poignancy of Ana’s attempts to validate her existence and her relationship with Sam were what sucked me in.
“Asunder” picks up not long after “Incarnate” left off, with Ana and Sam and their friends struggling to come to terms with the events of Templedark and the permanent disappearances of oldsouls. The stakes are immediately heightened when more newsouls are born–people who haven’t been reincarnated for lifetimes. Some of the city’s population is willing to protect the newsouls, but an even larger number hate and fear them. Most terrifying is that nobody but Ana with her new memories and new knowledge has any idea what sorts of ripple effects reincarnation has in the first place.
One thing I really appreciated about “Asunder” was that none of the answers came easily. Even when Ana was able to figure something out or make an informed guess that supported her evidence, nobody believed her. Since she is the youngest adult in her society and doesn’t have the same collective memories (or lack thereof) as everyone she knows, it makes logical sense that even her friends would find her opinions troubling.
The progression of facts and revelations regarding the temple, reincarnation, and the mysteriously godlike figure behind both felt natural and unhurried. So did the varying opinions of many of the characters–sympathetic or otherwise. Almost everyone recognizes the benefits and drawbacks of their lifestyle, and it was interesting to see how different minor characters approached those issues.
Most importantly for me was how Ana and Sam’s relationship progressed. Even the simplest concerns–from physical intimacy to whatever future they might have–are complicated by the greater problems of their world. I loved the way Meadows balanced the dramas and traumas of their personal lives with the dramas and traumas of their city.
So why three stars? That’s a hard thing for me to put my finger on, and any answer I give is going to be vague. I guess what it comes down to is that “Asunder” didn’t suck me in the same way “Incarnate” did. It didn’t keep me on the seat as effectively. I didn’t have my heart in my throat half as much. That said, I’m eager to see if “Infinite” ups the ante as the final book in the trilogy.