Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: "INCARCERON" by Catherine Fisher



INCARCERON is a prison unlike any other: It's inmates live not only in cells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness.  The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped.

Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can't remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron.  He's going to escape, even though most inmates don't believe that Outside even exists.  And then Finn finds a crustal key and through it, a girl named Claudia.

Claudia claims to live Outside- her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she's doomed to an arranged marriage.  If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return.

But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye.  Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.


My Review:

I had been waiting for this one to come out for a while now.  I had read about it on a trade site some months ago, and to be honest, the story along with the shiny, cool cover with the giant-crystal key on it had caught my attention.  Although not the best book I have ever read, a pretty good one none the less, and I will be looking for book # 2 soon, supposedly titled, "Sapphique" after the legendary one man thought to have escaped Incarceron.  In my little review here, as I usually go deep into a story without spoiling much for you guys, I am going to leave out most of the story itself.  There is a TON of things that happen that I do not even hint about.  It's a very "full" book, and will definitely keep you engaged throughout.  At 440 pgs, I finished it in about 2 days.  I truly didn't find a boring part in the book.  With that said...

So, what's up with Incarceron??  There are really 2 full stories and 2 different settings in the book that slowly mesh and come together.  First lets talk about Finn and his gang in Incarceron.  Finn and his "oath brother" Keiro are part of a gang in Incarceron call the Comitatus.  They are fearless and I would say they are criminals and free spirits who do what they have to in order to survive.  They are feared, loathed, and respected all at the same time. The 2, along with Gildas, a Sapient (the sort of highly respected, wizard-like, people who have been known for centuries) and Attia, a slave girl basically make up the main "prison" group of characters in the book.  They each have great personalities and the author has done a very good job of explaining their backgrounds and getting you to know each of the characters.  What is great is that throughout the book, you learn of the personality of Incarceron itself.  For  all I will say about it is that it is alive.  Yes, the prison itself is alive.  I think it would be better to not discuss it and let you read it yourself.  The "life" of the prison is developed throughout the book and I think it was done in a very understandable way, so I think I'll leave that part of the story for your doing.  

Next, on the "Outside" we have a totally different world.  It is made up of some high class, and some royalty.  We have Claudia, who is the Warden of Incarceron's daughter, slated to marry the Queen's son in an arranged marriage.  Her best friend, and life long mentor, is also a Sapient named Jared.  Jared has educated Claudia since she was a baby and basically she has trusted him and come to feel as if he is as close to her as a father can be.  The job of warden of Incarceron is a difficult and demanding one, and her real father has not been around all that much as she has grown up.  So.....the story:

As Finn and his crew, led by the thoughts of Gildas, the legend of Sapphique, and the "crystal key," the gang is on a mission to escape Incarceron.  Although it seems highly unlikely that this is possible, they still decide (for reasons that leave them no real choice) to try and find a way out.  Their journey leads them through Incarceron, which happens to be a world of it's own in size.  Through this journey, they come across many unexpected events that hinder their journey, as expected.  However, these events are all exciting and kept me wanting more for sure.  At some point which I will get to later on,  Finn and his group meet Claudia and her group.  Well, they "meet" them at first through the crystal key.  An exact replica of the one Finn has, Claudia has one as well.  Let's get to find out a bit about Claudia then we will talk about how the 2 groups come together.

Claudia (around 15-17 yrs old) was raised motherless and again, with a father who was not really around all that much.  In the "outside" although technology has been overly advanced (my guess is this is sometime in the future a few hundred years) the world had been set to protocol, around the 16th or 17th century, and these advanced technologies are around, yet hidden and forbidden.  I mention this as throughout the book, these "forbidden" technologies play a big role in the story.  Years ago, Claudia had been slated to marry the heir to the throne, Giles- who is about the same age as Claudia.  He was found dead at a young age (about 7) and his brother Casper had taken his place as the new heir to the throne and also as Claudia's new groom.  As Claudia really liked and missed Giles, she can't stand Casper and does not want to marry him.  Ok, ok, the story already.......(I had to get you guys familiar with the background first)

Now that you got all that, here's what happens, and remember- just an outline.  This was a really well thought out plot, and I don't want to get too into it.  I think you guys will really like this one, so I'm going to leave a lot for you to read yourself.  Basically, Claudia wants out of the marriage.  At the same time, she has always wanted to find out about Incarceron, but never was able to.  She gets hold of a magic crystal key, which let's her communicate with Finn and his group.  Finn's group is trying to escape Incarceron, and once they have contact with the outside (Claudia), it makes them believe that there is a way out.  Up until then, escape has only been by legend.

Where the story ties together, and I will tell you and want you to realize, that I am DEFINITELY NOT spoiling anything, because nothing is as it seems in Incarceron, is that Claudia believes beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Finn is actually Giles.  Yes, now hopefully it ties a bit together.  There is good evidence supporting this claim, which makes her determined to help him get out of there, and marry him.  Now, some obstacles that stand in her way: her Dad- the Warden, the Queen, and Incarceron itself.  It seems that her dad and the Queen have been involved in some secret conspiracy for years, and the marriage to Casper is arranged for specific reasons.  Behind all of this, is also a second conspiracy to get rid of the Queen AND Casper right after the wedding.  Who is behind this and why is what I'm not telling (and you will not guess).  Incarceron becomes a problem because it is alive (not explaining that) and does not want anyone to escape it.  What the heck does he mean "alive?"   Yes, it IS alive.  It took me getting through the book to figure that one out, so I am going to leave the same chore to you.

So, here are some of the questions to think about when deciding whether or not to read this one based upon what I have told you.  Who is Finn really?  Does he and his gang escape?  What happens to Claudia? The Queen and Casper? WHAT is Incarceron?  WHERE is Incarceron? (2 great questions with equally great answers) Who gets killed, if anyone?  What happens to the Warden? What is the Crystal Key and what does it do? (it's a really cool little toy, i'll tell you that!) A great question that I have mentioned NOTHING to hint at the answer, or even the situation, but who is Claudia???  That answer was probably the most shocking to me of all.  It doesn't come until almost the end of the book, but I will tell you this...what makes Incarceron a great read is that NOTHING in Incarceron is what it appears- NOTHING.



  1. I just purchased a copy 1 1/2 weeks ago and can't wait to read it. I have three other books in front of it. So hopefuly by next week. Thanks for the review.

  2. You know whats funny? The publishers sent me the sequel (which incidently is titled Sapphique) when every other blogger was getting the first one. I still haven't read it cuz I'm STILL looking for the first one. Lol, we should trade!

  3. I've heard so many good things about this, but I had no idea what it was about. Now that I know, it sounds beyond interesting and I'll have to pick it up.

  4. Incareron sounds so intriguing. It's fascinating how he set up his own worlds in a way I've never heard of before. Another great book to add to my list!

  5. I have been wanting to get my hands on this.. I have not had the time.

  6. I've been wanting it too. Great review!