Author: Catherine Fisher
Published Date: January 2010
Price: Amazon ($12.23)
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 ...
Fisher spins a dystopia of a paradise driven to shambles into a prison of poverty, theft, and hatred. Finn, a prisoner of Incarceron, perseveres with his hopes of a past outside of the lies and deceit he lives by as he and his friends attempt to discover the passageway to paradise, Outside. What he doesn’t know is Outside isn’t paradise.
Claudia, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter, hopes to rekindle the past in attempts to escape an arranged marriage. As she uncovers the secrets and atrocities of Incarceron through the Key, she realizes the world she thought she lived in was hidden by disguises, pretenses, and lies.
The originality of Incarceron, its feelings, its loneliness and also of Outside, another prison going back in time and inhibiting technology, caused the dystopia to shine amongst all the Hunger Game books and The Maze Runner. I thought the characterization of Incarceron as another character just made the dystopia feeling hit home.
The action of the first page and the mystery in uncovering the secrets created the tense and excited environment I love in books. Even though there weren’t any big fights, there were a few but they didn’t stand out as much as the intense moment when Fisher leaves an unknown discovery hanging by switching to a new perspective.
I loved the development of the characters, Finn, Keiro, Jared, Attia, and even Evian. There was just one character that it was either just me and my personal feelings or just a lack of development, but Claudia bothered me throughout the book. Claudia’s want to search for Incarceron and help release Finn and the other inmates just gave me a vibe that she was doing this for her own selfish reasons, to live a perfect and happy life and not have to have an arranged marriage. There were some parts when she was talking with Finn, it seemed liked Claudia just wanted Finn out and pose him as Giles. On the other hand, I absolutely love Finn because he is a human, instead of a hero. Even though Finn is portrayed as a deceitful and also a thief, he also has a conscious and regret to counteract it. I’m also intrigued by Kiero because he has so many personalities and facets that I don’t know which one to believe. He acts selfish and cruel but there were instances, a glimmer of kindness and loyalty that he exhibits. I also absolutely adored Jared, and actually hope for a Jared/Claudia pairing, rather than Claudia/Finn.
The different perspectives also just added another twist to the character development. The perspectives not only juxtaposed the Outside and Inside, but also helped portray each character’s motives and tantalizing hints of the development.
I loved the intricate designs on the cover and the dark color scheme, portraying the feeling of being caged up in a prison. I also thought the Key’s design was done well with the eagle. I love the metals and the moving motors because that’s essentially what Incarceron is made of, which is decorated by floating leaves, the symbol of Outside.
Dystopias take a twist as Fisher creates a page-turning prison full of secrets, hatred, and greed. Outside is a prison, disguised by trees and flowers, as Protocol inhibits freedom, selfish wants leading to murder. The characters’ complexities and the secrets unfolding a mystery made me flip through the book too quickly to realize I finished and needed to wait another half-year for the sequel, Sapphique.