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Julie Doe

The Alchemy of Forever (Incarnation #1) - Avery Williams Seraphina--whose last name is Ames according to the book product description, although I don't think we ever read that in the book itself--is killed during a robbery in London when she was 14. Fortunately, Cyrus, a boy she likes, is with her when it happens. Cyrus's father is an apothecary, and Cyrus has developed a potion which will allow her soul to be free to inhabit the body of another. Cyrus makes Sera drink the potion (fortunately he carries some with him everywhere) before she dies and helps her soul move into the body of the female robber.

From there the story jumps to present day San Francisco. Sera has been stuck with Cyrus for the intervening 660 years+, and Cyrus has expanded their little group to include a handful of others who are similarly able to jump from body to body. The problem that Sera is finally confronting is that their bodies--with the foreign souls--only last a few years. Then their souls have to move on, and the first body dies. Sera is tired of killing people and has decided to kill herself without moving on. This plan goes awry, however, and she ends up in the body of 16-year-old Kailey. Cyrus, who has sworn he cannot ever live without Sera, is hot on her trail.

I enjoyed the first 30% of the book--up until Sera ends up in Kailey--quite a bit and wondered why this had been marketed as YA. Then the book really jumped the shark. The final 70% is Sera adjusting to her new life and trying to dodge Cyrus when he eventually shows up at her high school. This calls for lists.

The Good

1. This book was written in the first person present tense, and I didn't feel like pulling my hair out the entire time I was reading it. Seriously. I've read some bad uses of both first person and of present tense. This book avoided those.

2. The first 30% of the book set up an interesting type of reincarnation and the possible moral/ethical consequences of that type of immortality. Pity all that was junked 30% of the way through the story.

The Bad

1. First, this book isn't even a complete story. It ends on a cliffhanger, and while many books that are part of a series do the same thing, this book does *not* contain a single finished story arc. The story just...stops.

2. Did the cover artist even read the book? The girl on the cover with her black hair and bangs in no way resembles any of the bodies that Sera inhabits during the course of the book.

3. Here's the reason this book failed for me, though. A 650-year-old woman/soul is still 650 years old regardless of the age of the body that she currently inhabits. Sera has lived through the Black Plague, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the Renaissance, multiple wars, etc. She has traveled extensively. She has had friends come and go, friends die, has killed others. And then when she ends up in the body of a 16-year-old girl, she really likes it and likes high school and loves the neighbor boy because he's so cute and ... Really? REALLY? Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Sera is *not* a teenager. I find it unbelievable that someone with that type of life experience would find high school (?) and a teenage boy (?) so interesting that she would stay in the same metropolitan area as Cyrus and risk being found by him. The reward does not seem worth risk, particularly for someone who has been around long enough to know better.

And this is my problem with a number of YA books where a very old character falls in love with a teenager. There's nothing wrong with teenagers (well, maybe there is...but that's another conversation for parents raising them :) ), but the idea that someone that young can provide meaningful intellectual and emotional companionship and support to someone who has lived multiple lifetimes is pretty far-fetched. There's a big difference between simply loving someone--as one might love a friend--and being "in love" with someone. I'm not ruling out the possibility of such a May-DecemberDecemberDecemberDecember relationship, but the story is going to need a lot more depth and character development than this one or any of the others I've read.