Initial reaction: “Transcendence” had many elements that intrigued me – mystery, suspense, romance, loose ties to Egyptian lore, a decent time travel story, and nice characterization. It does start a little sluggish with setting the pieces and people in the story in place, but once the story finds its stride, it doesn’t let go. I really enjoyed the relationship between Cole and Griffon.
“Transcendence” is one of the stronger YA fantasy/time-travel stories I’ve read in a while. Granted, it’s not a pitch-perfect story – it has a fair share of times where it stumbles along with its toggle between the past and present. Yet, I think what makes this story so appealing are the characters, the loose parallels of Egyptian lore, and the overall intrigue of how the mysteries established come together.
Nicole (Cole) is a young woman who travels to London with her elder sister Kat and begins to have distinct visions of a past which feels familiar, but out of reach. During one of the spells she takes while watching a frightening scenario of the past, Cole’s helped by Griffon, a boy who seems friendly but seems to suspect Cole of her ability.
As luck would have it, the two meet again in Cole’s hometown and things become more complex the more that Cole sees Griffon. The visions become more vivid/frequent, and Griffon seems to be the only one with the answers that Cole needs. The two become close as they learn about each other and discover that Cole’s visions are of the past – of her reincarnated past as an Akhet. Those visions are pieces of a greater puzzle that will lead Cole looking for the answers, because they may be a stand against the danger that’s facing both Cole and Griffon – to their relationship and their lives.
I think the biggest aspect I enjoyed about this novel were the characters and how they interacted. Well done to Omololu for creating a racially diverse cast of characters that are rounded and realistic for what the story shows. Cole’s a good protagonist to follow – she’s inquisitive and while she does tend to stumble a bit in her pursuits, I think overall she stands well in telling her story and not being a “damsel in distress” like a lot of YA heroines tend to be. Griffon is very sweet, a friend to and coming to the defense of Cole, though he carries some heavy secrets of his own. I liked him a lot. Cole and Griffon’s developing relationship is genuine and natural in its progression.
It is a fun journey to see some of what the Akhet’s roles are and what their abilities lend. It’s lightly drawn, but the worldbuilding/lore is enough to provide intrigue for the realm it establishes.
I think it took a little while for the story to build up to the point where it hit the ground running and steamrolled to the end. Some might find the historical flashbacks jarring at first because of the particular characters and shifting, but it evens out as the story goes along, and makes sense as the pieces are put together in the Akhet’s lives. I didn’t see one significant twist coming towards the end and that I thought was well portrayed for what it was. The tension towards the end was well played, and brought to a satisfying conclusion that manages to tie the major threads the story establishes, though admittedly there were a few things I would’ve liked to see evened out and perhaps had a little more connection to the characters that were shown in the flashbacks.
Overall, “Transcendence” is a refreshing YA fantasy/time travel story with elements of mystery, suspense, and romance that’s an engrossing read. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the author takes the sequel when it comes out next year (2013).
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Bloomsbury/Walker Books for Young Readers.