by Catherine Fisher
442 pages (hardcover)
Series (book one of three)
Ages 12 and up?
Review by Melliott
Incarceron is an experiment that has gone wrong: It's a giant prison that was built to do two things--rid society of all its troublemakers and criminals, and set up an ideal living environment for them--a utopia. But after 160 years, the prison is now both self-contained and self-perpetuating, and its inhabitants are born, live and die there in a sealed, dark, deteriorating hell.
The book focuses on two characters: Finn, a young man imprisoned in Incarceron, who has a strange bird tattoo on his wrist and no memories from before about the age of nine, which leads him to believe he used to live Outside; and Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, who lives in a kind of prison of her own.
At the same time Incarceron was created, the reigning king of this world decided that the only way to preserve human society was to stop time by insisting everything conform to a particular "civilized" Era from the past; Claudia is trapped in the facsimile of this repressive era, and destined to marry the heir to the throne, whom she loathes. Finn is motivated by dreams of escape, although legend has it that only one man--Sapphique--ever got out of Incarceron. Claudia also longs for escape, and things get interesting when these two discover a way to communicate with each other and start solving some mysteries together.
R E V I E W :
This was an interesting premise, well written and fast-paced, and I liked the way it played out. I identified with the characters, including some of the secondary ones like Keiro (Finn's oathbrother) and Jared (Claudia's "Sapient" tutor), and cared what happened to them. I wasn't as fascinated with all the details of Incarceron, although I think Steampunk fans would like that part a lot, but the story itself was gripping from start to finish, and the cliffhanger on which it ended was a satisfying one for the reader, who at this point knows more than some of the characters. I particularly liked how the author started each chapter with a quote from archives and legends she imagined to go along with her tale.
The cover treatments are a nice combination of natural and technological elements behind the crystal key that is at the center of Incarceron, and the keyhole/lock into which it presumably fits on Sapphique.
I plan to check out the sequel--Sapphique--for this weekend and keep reading about Finn and Claudia!