Review: Transcendence by C.J. Omololu

Sunday, June 24, 2012
Author: C.J. Omololu
Genre: young-adult, supernatural
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 352 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: June 5 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.25/5

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.

Full of danger, romance, and intrigue, Transcendence breathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live?

First, immediate thoughts upon finishing this quick read of a teenage paranormal novel: 
That was a lot of fun! That was original and wholly compelling, and it managed to be all that and more without a love triangle or a heroine who is too stupid to live! It can be done!

Though Transcendence inevitably hits a few bumps that keep it from being perfect, it was perfectly enjoyable and fully diverting for the few (far too short!) hours it took me to consume all 300+ pages. This was one of those all-too-hard-to-find novels that combined my desire to see how everything ended while contradictorily, not wanting to finish and end the fun. With welcome infusions of ideas and themes from some of the more underutilized mythologies (Egyptian symbols! Reincarnation!), Transcendence is unique, entertaining and compulsively readable experience. This is my first exposure to this author, but I can guarantee that it will not be the last time I read her work. I've added Omololu's YA contemporary novel, Dirty Little Secrets, to my TBR just based off of the many strengths of this novel, despite the extreme difference in the genres of the two novels, as well as initiating a countdown for the inevitable sequel to this one, Fated. I cant believe how unfair it is that I have to wait another entire year, until June of 2013!, to escape back into this exciting story.

First-person POV works really, really well here in Transcendence, for both Omololu's easy style and for the strong, believably teenage voice of Cole, the main character. Cole is a wonderfully realized character: she's smart, flawed, funny and all the more real for the care that evidently went into her development.  Plus she admits Harry Potter is her favorite book, so she gets +100 for that alone. Cole is a strong character, one that is self-defined and one that wants to save herself. When she says to Griffon: "Just because I don't want to be the helpless female in his hero movie doesn't mean I want him to go," I cheered for her. Mentally. I totally did not say "hell yeah" out loud. Noo. That would be embarrassing. Anyway. Love isn't dependence, kids. Love isn't someone rescuing you and making your decisions. It is is so nice (but sadly rare) to read a teenage protagonist without that misconception; one that can accept help without being helpless or brainless. It's a fine balance but one that is well-struck here with Transcendence's Nicole. She doesn't depend on or live for a boy: this is talented, well-drawn, full-realized character and her love for music is one of the most defining aspects of her multi-faceted personality. Even just talking about music, it's obvious how much love Cole has for what she does ("My heart races as his bow glides over the strings, an unspoken communication that fills the room, replacing the air with sound and emotion." p. 51 ARC), as well as showing that this isn't a character that is defined by anyone else.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the infinite kudos deserved by this author for the variance of races among her secondary cast. White-washing is a horrid, horrid trend in young-adult book publishing, one that needs to stop. Griffon is an African-American (and is shown on the cover too!), and there are other characters that aren't uniformly Caucasian or European that actually participate in the novel. I wish Gabi had played a bit more into the events of the novel, but an Indian close friend and a black love interest is a lot more diversity than most books ever do. It's obvious early on that is author isn't interested in doing what others are: her vision for her novel is unique and fresh and that's how it reads, from plot to themes to characters themselves. I mean, at just first glance, this book contains: Egyptian mythology, a racially diverse cast, an aware and self-confident protagonist, no instalove, no random girl-on-girl hate, AND no love triangle? It's refreshing and it's over all too soon. Other authors: please take note.  I want more of ALL THIS.

The idea of reincarnation is not one I've seen too often in this particular genre, so straight off the bat Omololu gets major points for her originality. YA paranormals tend to stick more toward the vampires, werewolves and ghosts of the supernatural spectrum; the only other novel I can recall that focuses on immortality without those genre staples was Avery Williams's short but fun The Alchemy of Forever. Both Alchemy and Transcendence use their originality and fresh perspectives to their favor; this never has the echoes of "been there, done that" storylines that so many other YA novels often do contain. I mean, really: how long can we read about the ordinary, beautiful-but-unaware of it mortal girl in the thrall of a vampire? Using such a fresh concept like essence transition really does make Transcendence stand out. Omololu isn't afraid to face the questions at the core of her characters' soul transmigrations - when one can remember lives upon lives for hundreds of years, what do you take with you to each new experience? Love? Guilt? Intelligence? Responsibility? Revenge? How can you justify a romantic relationship between someone who's aware of his hundreds of years of life and someone who only has 17 to recall? It certainly feels a little squicky at the outset, but all is not as it seems. And, CJ Omololu actually takes the time to explore and answer these questions, all nearly to satisfaction.

As for the romance, I admit I was veeery hesitant and wary of where that could go with Cole and her love interest, Griffon. Clearly with the theme of reincarnation, a lot of writers would go for the star-crossed instalove connection. It almost begs for it with a set up like a time-slip novel - a love out of time is a romantic idea and one that understandably holds appeal to a variety of audiences. However, Omololu doesn't go that route, skipping immediately down Romance Avenue and happily-ever-afters. Wonder of wonders, this is an author that takes time, care and detail into crafting a real, believable connection between the two "teens", one that is not wholly based on who they were before, but on who they are now in the present. Their romance is sweet, frustrating  and above all - credible. No instalove here just a relationship that slowly blooms into a natural and endearing partnership. Love in all its forms is shown throughout the novel, actually, and this is one of the few YAs that takes the time and effort to feature a functional, if not traditional, family life. The mom may be the most one-dimensional character of the whole novel (and brought back unfavorable echoes of Diana in Virtuosity),  but even she grows and changes a bit over the book.

I enjoyed a lot about this, but it is not without faults. The plot can be weak in certain sections of the novel, some twists and turns of the plot feel and can come across as very contrived, and one of my least favorite plot devices, the "I have a super-sekrit, dangerous plan I can tell NO ONE about" comes out to play late in the course of the book. I wish the plot had a been a bit stronger, but my enjoyment of the characters, the mythology, and Cole's inner monologue keep the deficit from being a glaring issue. These are minor complaints in the shadow of all the AWESOME that is in play for this book - they detract but a little, and I still feel all fangirly about Transcendence. With several big twists I really did NOT see coming and more late-in-the-game open-ended questions than answers, Transcendence leaves the door wide open for its sequel without sacrificing satisfaction for the readers and fans of the first.

Though Fated is more than a year away (nooo) and I can see the love-triangle brewing with a vengeance (nooo!), I can't wait to get back to this uniquely paranormal series, and these delightful, rounded characters. If you're looking for an engrossing, easily readable YA with lots of action and a hint of mystery, look no further.


  1. I haven't heard too much of this novel since its release, but it definitely sounds really good! Great review Jessie!(:

    Ivy Book Bindings

    1. I'm actually fairly surprised it's not more well-known! It was very fun and fresh to read, and that is so rare for YA paranormal!

      It's on NetGalley if you'd want to try to request it, Keertana!

      And thank you! :D


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