Friday, May 11, 2012

Review of Nerine Dorman's Inkarna

What if you belonged to a secret cult that knew how to transfer the soul from one body to another?
This is the fascinating premise upon which Nerine Dorman’s Inkarna is based.  Who hasn’t wondered what happens after death and if it’s possible to come back?
For Lizzie Perry, a member of House Adamastor of the Inkarna, eternal life in a succession of different bodies is all but assured. If her heart is pure enough and if she has attained the necessary power while an initiate on earth, she will cross over to Per Ankh where she shall await her time on earth again. She will be reunited with her husband, also a member of Inkarna, and others of her particular house.
The problem is – one day she opens her eyes and finds herself in the body of Ashton Kennedy, a young man who has been in a coma.  This is wrong on many levels. For one thing, Inkarna come back in the bodies of children so as to grow into their powers and because it is easier to integrate.  For another, Ash is very definitely a man and Lizzie has always envisioned herself as being eternally female.
The biggest problem is that she cannot remember why she was sent into Ash’s body and it becomes very clear in no time that there was a reason.  Places and people she needs are no longer there. She can’t seem to control the powers she’d developed as Lizzie – they are erratic and scary in the Ash body.  And why is there a plot to destroy her? Is it Inkarna-related or is it the fact that before the coma Ash Kennedy was a real bastard?
As if Lizzie hasn’t got enough to do to figure out why she’s been abruptly stuffed into Ash’s body, she has to relearn the geography and culture of Cape Town – it’s changed quite a bit in the fifty years she’s spent in Per Ankh. There’s also Ash’s clingy girlfriend, Marlise.  And Ash’s ghost – who very much wants his damn body back. Yesterday.
I loved this story for many reasons. First and foremost, Ms. Dorman has written a novel based on Egyptian magic that is both credible and impeccably researched.  Her love for the Red Land is very apparent. I have a passion for Egyptology too and found myself in awe of her grasp of both the metaphysical and mythological aspects.
The juxtaposition of a female soul in a male body was another of my favorite things. Lizzie as Ash is both humorous and moving. As she navigates deeper into the psyche of Ash and becomes more at ease, the reader is taken on a fascinating psychological ride.
For most of the book I thought of Lizzie trapped in Ash’s body, but slowly, believably, I began to think of her as Ash.  Lizzie become more male, but never lost her essential self. 
The more Lizzie discovers about Ash Kennedy and his life before the accident that put him a coma, the more she despises him. The bar scene when Ash is confronted by an ex-lover is especially well done and memorable. I found myself sympathizing with Lizzie as more and more of Ash’s despicable character was revealed. Could she take over and change the world’s perceptions of this flawed man?  Well, possibly, if she didn’t get killed by the rival House Montu of the Inkarna or Ash’s own enemies first.
Ms. Dorman has a wonderful hand with description.  I felt as if I were familiar with Cape Town when, in actuality, I’ve never set foot there. Ms. Dorman’s love of South Africa is evident on each page.
At just under 300 pages, this novel is rich and complex, dark and intriguing and well worth the time it takes to read it. It is not a fast read because attention must be paid to the details, the Egyptian terms and concepts and all the twists and turns of the never predictable plot.
I eagerly look forward to devouring each of Ms. Dorman’s novels as they are bound to appear.
Here is a handy link where you can find the book:

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Nerine's work is always a homerun!