Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review - Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Published by Dial Books on January 26, 2010
Hardcover, 442 pages
Rating: 4.5 bookcases

Summary from Goodreads: Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ...

Incarceron is a fantastic book. It has a very intricate plot, with many characters and two distinct settings. Incarceron has a bit of almost everything: political plotting, arranged marriages, secret identities, hidden loyalties, rooms that move and change locations, a strong female character, and a boy that needs saving. The two main characters, Finn and Claudia, are similar in that they know that their lives should be different and they are willing to whatever it takes to change them for the better.

In the first section, the chapters alternate between Finn’s point of view in Incarceron and Claudia’s point of view from Outside. This really sets up the differences and similarities between the two places. Incarceron, the prison where thousands of criminals were sealed centuries ago is a place that is ever changing and vaster than can be imagined. Outside is a place where nothing changes, because the rulers have forbidden it. While disease and germs have been all but eradicated, the citizens are stuck in an Era of corsets and breeches and extreme politeness, even though new technology exists, no one is allowed to use it because they must conform to Protocol. The beginning sets up all the questions: Was Finn really born in Incarceron? Are his fits really visions or could they be memories? Where is Incarceron located, specifically where is it located in relation to Outside? Can Claudia find a way into Incarceron? Can prisoners find a way out of Incarceron?

The following sections still alternate between Finn and Claudia, but they do so several times within each chapter. As Finn and Claudia search for ways out of and into Incarceron, they both encounter difficulties in the form of people who would rather they not discover the prison’s secrets. In addition to learning about Incarceron, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, must deal with an arranged marriage to Prince Caspar, who she does not want to marry, but must within a few days. As she races against the clock, Claudia emerges as a strong, clever heroine, who sticks by her convictions.

About two-thirds of the way through, a light bulb went off and I realized how clever this book is, how Ms Fisher had set up the story so that each question had many possible answers until a character found the answer that best suited his or her purpose. Each answer also helps to weave the different plot elements and story lines together. The last two sections have revelation after revelation. It is a lot of information at once, but it is good because by this point in the story each answer or new piece of information confirms your thoughts and guesses, all while tying everything together.

I love the ending of Incarceron. It is not very conclusive. This is in part because there is a sequel, so the ending does leave some loose ends that need to be explored further. However, if there was no sequel and Incarceron were a standalone novel, the ending would still work. It gives the reader room to speculate about what happens next. I really like endings that aren’t so final and definite. They allow the reader to make up the rest of story how they see it. My question at the end of Incarceron was do I patiently wait for Sapphique to be published in the US or do I order the UK version?


  1. Awesome review! Now I want to read this one more!

  2. Wow! This book sounds amazing. Great review.

  3. Nice review! Were confused the first like two chapters? I started reading it and I ended up putting it down. I guess I need to continue to get the good stuff...

  4. I so want to read this :) :) It looks so good, glad you enjoyed it!!


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