Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose

Since I had already read The Book of Lost Fragrances and Seduction of the series, I decided to read The Reincarnationist which is the first book in the Reincarnationist series. There were surprises (good and bad), more about reincarnation, and a really good story. This is what books should be -- satisfying.

John Ryder has been having what he calls lurches for over a year. They started when he was caught in a bomb blast in Rome. The lurches put him in ancient Rome in the body of a priest named Julius who is in love with a Vestal, The Vestal, and having an intimate relationship. Since the vestals served for 30 years and were chaste or they died by being buried alive to suffocate, having both Julius and Sabina, the Vestal, were committing a capital crime. Julius would also die if he was found out to be Sabina's lover.

Coincidentally, the Phoenix Club, which has been invested in proving reincarnation, financed a dig in Rome to find an ancient memory tool of powerful significance -- the Memory Stones. Josh is on site and in the grave of what has proven to be a Vestal holding a fruitwood box that may contain the Memory Stones. One of the archaeologists is murdered and the Memory Stones stolen and Josh is the only witness. The fun is just beginning as the threads that have bound him with the other players in this drama are connected to him by threads that span centuries.

I was immediately intrigued by the story M. J. Rose spins in The Reincarnationist and was more comfortable with the switches between time periods, which were less jarring than in Seduction and quite fascinating. The details of all the times depicted are well researched and amazingly accurate (I'm a study of history and archaeology) and left me breathless with anticipation for the next occurrence.

Part of the fun of The Reincarnationist is figuring out how different people are related and which one is the mind behind the murders and the thefts. I was wrong. There were, however, some questions that remained unanswered at the end, but the ending was satisfying and fit the context of the central theme and the tone of the story that unfolded.

Some of the characters made my skin crawl and others broke my heart, but all were fully realized. I love when that happens.

On the less satisfying side were the numerous editing glitches, repeated words, and words out of context. For a major publishing house like Mira, I was definitely not happy, especially when I had to stop my headlong rush through the book to figure out what was supposed to be written. The only other incident was Josh's description of the soul, which was exactly the same as the description used in a movie about finding the reincarnated Dalai Lama. The use of the cup and the water was nearly word for word from the movie, a movie I happen to like and remember clearly. It may be that Rose is simply using the Buddhist explanation and that it's rather like repeating a funny story or an explanation of reincarnation. I can let that go, although it did stand out.

In the end, it is the story and the way the character move through their fictional universe that matters. In this, M. J. Rose does an excellent job of putting all the pieces of a very intricate puzzle together in an entertaining and thought provoking manner. The Reincarnationist is a wonderful story inhabited by believable 3-dimensional characters that shock, amaze, and fascinate from beginning to end, so much so I stayed up late a couple of nights to finish the book.

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