Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Overall Score: 4 out of 10
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 prison--a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage he 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.
From the moment I read the plot to Incarceron I knew I wanted to read it. The very idea held so much potential. I hadn't read any other reviews before I signed up to read the sequel, Sapphique, on an ARC tour. Unfortunately I didn't like Incarceron as much as I thought I would. The backstory was rarely explained throughout the novel (a 400 page novel mind you) and you simply followed along as Claudia and Finn tried to find a way out of their respective prisons.
Why Incarceron exists, outside of creating a so-called paradise, isn't well explained within the confines of the story. Yes, there are notes, bits of letters, and pieces of history in the header of each chapter--which is very creative--but I felt like a lot of those small quotes were used in place of telling an actual history. I kept waiting for someone to give me a backstory on the Era, why the powers that be would decide on a such a drastic change in everyone's lives to halt time as it were. To chose to send thousands of people into a prison that no one would return from. Also, did sending all prisoners to Incarceron instantly stop crime from occurring. Do they chose to send new prisoners from people who break the law Outside, and these people are really the cell-borns? It would make some kind of sense, wouldn't it?
I was left with so many questions that I felt weren't really answered. Instead we were left with a story about a girl who didn't want to get married and a boy that might be the heir to a country he knows nothing about. The book ended and yet I still felt like I just didn't understand the world that Fisher was trying to build. I got the idea, I understood the Era they were trying to recreate, and sort of why it happened, but I wanted to know more.
Finn is your tortured teen who knows, believes, feels that he doesn't belong in a Prison full of thieves and killers. Claudia is a girl who feels the same way, but has no idea how she could Escape. She is trapped just as much as Finn except with prettier dresses and better hygiene. I found so much of this book to be interesting and fun to read, but I also felt like so many words were wasted on not telling us what and why this world existed. Perhaps leaving us with so many questions at the end of Incarceron was Fisher's way of making us want the sequel to answer them. Unfortunately I was left with a half-finished feeling. I liked the story well enough, but if I wasn't receiving Sapphique as an ARC I don't know if I would of bought it on my own.
The writing was beautiful, but I felt all too often that I was being dragged along on a trip that was taking too long. I could have done with a story that was 50 pages less. Like I said it wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be. So far the sequel is proving to be just as intriguing as Incarceron, but we'll just need to see how the story goes.