Published: 1st July 2013 by Bloomsbury Sydney
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
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Nicole fears she's losing her mind. Lately, everywhere she goes, everything she touches, triggers vivid scenes of a time she doesn't know, in a place she's never lived. Then she loses her heart too...
When Griffon first sees Cole, he knows immediately that she is special, like him - that her visions are memories of past lives. And he is sure their paths were meant to cross in this life...
With Griffon's help, Cole pieces together clues from many lifetimes and discovers a secret that could ruin her only chance of a future with Griffon. But risking his love may be the only way to save them both.
While I enjoyed Transcendence and it certainly kept me entertained, there are ultimately too many things I didn’t like about it to really proclaim it an instant favourite. I think the past-lives, reincarnation aspect is handled well (and ties to Egyptian mythology are always a plus), but the characters and the plotting could have been much, much better.
We begin with the world-building, wherein everyone reincarnates, but only a special few, called Ahket, remember their past lives. The awakening, or transitioning, is marked by random flashes of traumatic or emotional events witnessed in ones past lives. When our protagonist, Nicole (Cole) begins to have these visions, she’s convinced she’s going crazy, or is very unwell. Lucky a random stranger named Griffon is there to help her through it. This aspect of the book is interesting, and quickly pulled me into the book. The more that Cole found out about Ahket, the more I wanted to know. Getting to meet other Ahket is exciting, and I hope that as the series goes on, more is revealed about the world and the role the Ahket play in it.
My main source of disappointment in Transcendence is the execution – it’s somewhat clumsy and unsatisfying, and left me with the feeling that the protagonist is ten kinds of foolish. For example, Cole, freaking out that she’s experiencing weird visions, and confronted with Griffon who seems to know more than he lets on about them, instantly trusts him. Even when common sense tells her not to, she’s constantly telling the reader how much she innately trusts him. Which would be fine, albeit unbelievable, if she didn’t, in the same breath, tell us how she thinks he’s crazy for believing the reincarnation stuff. She listens to his theories, meets other Ahket he knows and humours them on their beliefs, but it’s a dodgy fortune-teller that eventually makes her believe! Go on Cole, tell me again how you trust this random boy …
Closely connected, then, is the romance that transpires between Cole and Griffon. It’s sweet and cute and oddly satisfying to read about, but Cole quickly becomes one of those YA protagonists that needs every consequence and corollary spelt out for her. She lacks the ability to even think one step ahead, is always angry and upset when the painfully obvious is pointed out to her. In addition, after sixteen years of fierce independence, she completely melts down when a guy doesn’t call/text her for a few days. She became disgustingly clingy, which didn’t seem natural for the character that the author described pre-Griffon.View Spoiler »Some of my favourite Cole moments — Griffon’s lived many lives before? Oh but he mustn’t have fallen in love before! Oh, who are the girls in photos on his shelves? People from past lives, oh dear! Griffon, you say you haven’t dated high school girls because you find, thanks to your recollections of past lives, you have more in common with older women? That must mean you’ve never dated anyone before … who’s that college girl?! Griffon, you haven’t called me two days after kissing me! Watch me die here in a puddle of self-pity! And so it went. « Hide Spoiler
On the subject of Griffon, he came across as too perfect. Where are his faults? His psychological hang-ups, the emotional and mental trauma of remembering so much, of having lost so much? I think the level of perfect that Griffon maintained throughout the book is probably what irked me the most. In terms of secondary characters, the author does admirably, creating believable, caring parents, a spunky sister, and an awesome best friend, but I wish these characters had more life. I feel like the author really only pulled them out when the plot needed to be advanced in some way, and they were otherwise left to rot in the back corners while Cole gallivanted around with her beau.
So, overall, where Transcendence failed me is how, I think, the author chose to approach it. In writing for a young adult audience, perhaps it seemed wiser to over-explain everything, to heighten every feeling to the point of melodrama, to create a ‘relatable’ main character who’s middling, average, unremarkable, aside from her Cello playing, can’t wear heels, doesn’t wear skirts and throws away her life’s passion for love. I, however, have read too many books where the world-building and plot elements are watered down, where the protagonist is stereotypical to a fault, to find anything I loved about it.