Review: Transcendence – by CJ Omololu ~ Akhet are the new vampires

Akhet are the new vampires

There is a kernel of a good idea here

Verdict: Interesting paranormal concept that played out in a disconnected, melodramatic plot with forgettable characters.

Perfect for: People who still love vampire stories, or are bored of vampire stories but still want that romance-between-beings-with-eternal-life thing. People who are interested in the concept of reincarnation.

Summary: ach, can’t muster the energy to do my own summary. Hit it, publisher’s blurb! “When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider.  As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both.”

Blerg to that last sentence, but doesn’t the rest of it sound promising? I thought so too. Alas.

 Awesome Concept

Yeah, so totally awesome premise, and to some extent it pays off by making your brain go hmmmmmm. One way it does this is how finding out that you are an Akhet changes your image of yourself.  Cole is on track to be a world-renowned cellist; she’s been called a cello prodigy her whole childhood. But when she learns that she is actually Akhet, and that her amazing cello playing comes from a past life, she feels that she has somehow cheated, and has not earned her talent.

But then Griffon tries to convince her that being Akhet is special, because you have the potential to retain talents and knowledge through so many lives.  And this is where the second interesting thing comes in: the concept that in our world our most talented people and our most evil people are actually Akhet. Isn’t that a trip to think about?

Also trippy is the idea that you can die and then reborn as another person and that your grandkid could be the same age as you are. Like, woah. That’s almost as cool as time travel paradoxes. I actually wish the author had done something more in this direction. It could have added an interesting other level to the story.

 Buuuut Too Many Holes 

Despite its cool premise, both the concept and the plot had way too many holes. For example, none of the Akhet know how or why they are reborn and can retain their memories, or why it takes awhile for Akhet to regain their memories or why other people never remember their past lives. I guess the author wanted there to be a spiritual mystery instead of hard and fast reasons – just like in real life.  I can see why that is a fair choice, but it does feel like a bit of a cheat.

There also seemed to be a bit of inconsistency in how Akhets are supposed to be able to recognize each other because of their special vibrations they give off (ew). In the story there is a key moment where Akhet Griffon recognizes an adversarial Akhet, but the other Akhet seems absolutely clueless that Griffon is an Akhet – and this is a MAJOR plot element.

It also is implied that Akhet can retain money over lives. But that seems implausible, especially given that Akhet are not immediately reborn in a new body, nor are they reborn in the same place. What if you were a Victorian-era London banker and you had hella money and then you die and then 200 years later you are reborn as a peasant in rural Uruguay?

There are also a lot of plot holes and what I would characterize as lazy plot construction, the most glaring example is Griffon’s maddening behavior of telling Cole, “I can’t explain right now” anytime she is confused about why she is having flashbacks of the past or wants to know more about why he is rushing off somewhere. Obvs this is done to heighten the suspense and make the reader keep turning the page to find out what the heck is going on but it’s like, jeez Griffon just effing tell her! No need to be so coy. Or so condescending (because he is afraid to tell her everything in case she freaks out).It also took FOREVER for Cole to find out she is Akhet, which is annoying since the book jacket lets us know what the deal is, which made Griffon’s coyness even more irritating. If I were to hack this book, I would make “the big reveal” part of the plot happen much sooner.

There’s also some spoilery things that don’t make sense to me: BEGIN SPOILERS Why does Griffon-as-executioner fall in love with Cole-as-Lady Allison or care about her so much that he hides the ankh and goes to the trouble to retrieve it in later life? And what’s up with the total coincidence that his dad works at the place where he used to be an executioner? And why do all the other characters seem to carry an obsessive love for a past lover but Cole doesn’t seem to want to follow up on her deep love for Lady Allison’s husband? END SPOILERS.

 YMMV: Flashbacks

Maybe this is more of a personal preference than a legit hack, but none of Cole’s past life flashbacks worked for me. At all. They were all boring and written in that annoying faux historical style and both seemed to go on foreverrrrr and weren’t long enough to add up to anything significant. But I’ve seen other reviews where people found the flashbacks to be evocative and immersive.

*shrugs* I must admit that it is the rare book where I enjoy flashbacks. They often seem cheesy to me, and this book was no exception. My hack for this book’s flashbacks would be for the language to be in the same style as the rest of Cole’s narration***

***HOWEVER this is another book with the dreaded first person present tense. Pleeeeeease, YA authors, please rediscover past tense! It is a perfectly great tense to use!

 Twilighty Characters

The Akhet-Vampire comparison is not a stretch to make, given that with both there is eternal life and the irony of being one age in body and another in one’s mind and life experience. As Griffon so eloquently puts it (NOT), it’s kind of creepy to look 17 but be to actually be hundreds of years old when you are flirting with high school girls (ew). So there is your first Griffon/Edward comparison. The other is that Griffon is in the protective (I would say overly protective) role while Cole takes on Bella’s damsel in distress role. She even (with some attempt at irony) tells Griffon that he seems to be playing the role of the “handsome prince”. Yuk!

In general, none of the characters were all that interesting. Which is weird because Akhet are supposed to be so special and almost like superheroes.

What Superheroes?

All Akhet are supposed to use their accumulated skills and knowledge to better the world, but in the book this comes off vague at best. Cole sees a bunch of equations in Griffon’s room and he embarrassedly admits that they are for some alternative fuel project he is working on to help save the environment. But it is all very vague about how involved in this project Griffon is, considering that he seems to spend most of the novel traveling to London, playing baseball, chasing after Cole, and generally doing teenagery things. I mean, I guess he needs a cover or something? But that seems weird since Akhet are supposed to take on the role of prodigy and work hard to better the world. And none of the Akhet we meet in the book seem to be up to anything significant.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Transcendence – by CJ Omololu ~ Akhet are the new vampires

  1. I read this book about six weeks ago, and it’s funny — I really enjoyed the story and the way the reincarnation theme worked, and gave it a rave review. THEN, after I had more time to think about it, I started seeing more plot holes and more squick. It is pretty ridiculous that Veronique couldn’t tell that Griffon was super-Akhet, isn’t it? Plus, I was left wondering, Why is Griffon even bothering to go to high school? It seemed so utterly pointless, and so unfair to the other kids competing against him both academically and athletically.

    The thing that totally lost my empathy with Griffon, though, was how he told Cole that he didn’t “date” high school girls — then later turns out to have been sleeping with a girl who must be about 19! I fail to see a huge difference between sleeping with a 16-year-old and sleeping with a 19-year-old when you’re last memory is of being a 42-year-old man with an 18-year-old daughter. Either way, it’s EWWW. Plus, white-girl Cole got the “I respect high school girls” lecture, while the girl he was using/sleeping with was black … I’m not sure the author thought that through very well, despite her black husband and biracial sons. And Griffon has the nerve to say, “It’s not like she was my girlfriend,” which supposedly makes it all better? I so think NOT.

    The whole Akhet super-powers thing bugged me, too. None of those “talents” — memorizing pages of text, memorizing chessboards in a glance, dodging bullets — are things any of us are going to develop in a “normal” life, or that are even really that useful. And the physical stuff would have to be relearned every lifetime in a new body, anyway.

    Part of me really admires CJ Omolulu for being willing to deal a bit with the squickier aspects of being an old man in a young body … but part of me is just overwhelmed by the squick, anyway.

    Sorry to be so long-winded!

    • WoW! Thanks for your thoughts! Totes agree with all you say – had missed the weird racial judgy thing against Griffon’s ex gf. Yeah, I didn’t get the memorizing chessboards or Rainman counting either as an Akhet related thing. I really do think Omolulu had a great kernel of an idea, but maybe the pressure of making a marketable YA romance got in the way of developing it more fully. I REALLY enjoyed her previous novel “Dirty Little Secrets” so I think she’s got the writing talent.

  2. I forgot to add, you mention that it doesn’t make sense that Griffon-as-executioner would have kept Lady Allison’s necklace (why did he care so much about her especially? — although I suppose that’s the plot for Book Two), and where are these “places that never change” that he stores things in, and as you ask, how DO Griffon and his mom seem to have so much money?. It makes EXTRA no-sense when Griffon adds, apparently in reference to that necklace, “I wasn’t Akhet yet then.” So how on earth did he manage to find it again?

    I guess I’ll read “Dirty Little Secrets” — I’m due for some contemporary anyway, and everyone I know who has read that speaks very highly of it.

    Anyway, great review of Transcendence. And I am SO in agreement with you about first person/present tense — ban it now!!

  3. P.S. You seem to be a fairly new blog. so far as I can tell? I’ll be back to look at more reviews! I love your “hack” approach.

    • thanks so much, Holly! Yes, this is a new hobby and I’m having fun with it! You can subscribe by email to the blog on the main page or follow on Twitter @LitHacker

      You and your thoughtful comments are welcome here anytime 🙂

  4. I feel like reincarnation is a really interesting idea that could be addressed in lots of thoughtful and creative ways in fiction, but most of the time it’s used as some kind of deus ex machina.

  5. I just want to add that I’m currently reading “Dirty Little Secrets” and finding it VERY different from Transcendence — Lucy feels like a much better-developed character than Cole did, and I really like how she is the one doing things, rather than being a person that things just happen TO, as was the case with Cole.

    What surprises me most is, Dirty Little Secrets, with its tight time-frame, would seem like the one that should have been written in present tense, perhaps with Lucy’s memories in past tense. And I think Transcendence would have been better served with a past tense style, with Cole’s flashbacks in present tense, maybe.

    Hmmmmm. I seem to have a bit of a tendency to want to hack books, too. 🙂

    But anyway, thanks for the prod to finally get around to Dirty Little Secrets. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed these novels were written in reverse order!

  6. Pingback: Review Hacklet: Jesus Land by Julie Scheeres ~ A harrowing teenage memoir | LitHacker

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