by Suzanne Weyn
I've read many non-fiction books on the topic of reincarnation, and some of the stories within them are as strange as (or stranger than) fiction. So maybe it's not any wonder that there are so few fiction books that deal with this topic. I've read a few, ranging from the good (Alison Baird's The Witches of Willowmere) to the absurd (Alyson Noël's Evermore) to the downright awful (Michael Kube-McDowell's Vectors). Suzanne Weyn's Reincarnation falls somewhere in the middle. It wasn't the best reincarnation novel I've ever read, but it certainly wasn't the worst.
From the beginning, before I knew anything about the story, I knew two things: first, that there would be a lot of death; and second, that the two characters would have a satisfactory ending. When you're writing about multiple lives, death is a given. After all, one has to die before they can be reborn. And as for the ending... well, if there's not going to be a satisfactory conclusion, then what's the point of this particular journey? (I guess you can get away with that kind of nonsense in literary fiction, but this is, after all, a young adult romance novel. Do you really expect it to end with, "And they both died and never saw each other again for all eternity"?)
The plot loosely revolves around emeralds. In the beginning, a young Cro-Magnon woman and a young Neanderthal man die while fighting over a chunk of emerald. This event sets the rest of the story in motion. The two reincarnate over and over again, meeting in each life and discovering an inexplicable attraction to one another, while encountering the green jewels that often (but not always) lead to their demise. It's difficult to talk about characters, because they went by different names throughout the book. They were fairly easy to keep track of, though, as the author assigned characteristics to each one early on, and those characteristics kept repeating. The young woman, for instance, injured her foot in ancient Egypt; from then on, when a character showed up who had foot or ankle problems, you knew which reincarnated character it was. (I did find this to be a little over-simplified, but for storytelling purposes, it worked.)
This was a quick read, but at times it felt a little rushed. The last section, especially, seemed a little too short (and convenient). Unfortunately, due to the nature of the story, there was really not enough time for the author to properly develop any of the characters... and so we had to rely on those external characteristics I mentioned earlier (the bum ankle, the headaches, the jaw problems, the redhead who always wears yellow). I wouldn't have minded if the book was a little longer, especially in some sections.
I did like how the author incorporated different cultural beliefs into the story. When a character died, they saw what their culture had conditioned them to see. The prehistoric people saw a great bird carrying the spirits of the dead; the ancient Greeks saw the River Styx and Elysium; those who were raised in Western Christian countries saw the pearly gates and the archangel Michael. It would have been even more interesting had these two characters reincarnated in other places around the world (but they were confined to the Mediterranean region, Europe, and the U.S.A.).
All in all, it was an entertaining and interesting read. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an open mind who loves a good story.
Overall: 3.4 out of 5