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To free herself from an upcoming arranged marriage, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, a futuristic prison with a mind of its own, decides to help a young prisoner escape.

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Incarceron (Incarceron Series #1)

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To free herself from an upcoming arranged marriage, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, a futuristic prison with a mind of its own, decides to help a young prisoner escape.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
…nothing, including the final scene, is as it seems in this eerie, elegant fantasy…Intricately plotted and richly imagined, this novel holds the attention as inexorably as Incarceron holds its prisoners.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Fisher (the Oracle Prophesies series) scores a resounding success in this beautifully imagined science fantasy set in a far future where, many years earlier, civilization was artificially frozen at late-medieval levels in order to save the world from dangerous technologies. Simultaneously, all of the world's malcontents and madmen were sealed into an unimaginably vast, sentient prison named Incarceron, where a dedicated group of social engineers intended to create utopia. Claudia, the brilliant daughter of the cold-blooded warden of Incarceron, has been raised from birth to marry and eventually control Caspar, the simpleminded heir to the throne. Finn, a young man without a past, is a prisoner in Incarceron, which has become a hideous dystopia, an “abyss that swallows dreams.” When Claudia and Finn each gain possession of a high-tech “key” to the prison, they exchange messages, and Finn asks Claudia to help him attempt an escape. While he negotiates the hideous maze of the prison, Claudia makes her way through the equally deadly labyrinth of political intrigue. Complex and inventive, with numerous and rewarding mysteries, this tale is certain to please. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
VOYA - Jennifer Miskec
Claudia is the pampered daughter of a powerful father; Finn is a member of a gang of violent thieves and renegades. Claudia lives in a utopist re-creation of Victorian England; Finn dwells inside Incarceron, a prison in which entire communities survive without any memories of a life not controlled by the prison itself. Despite the disparate existence of the two teens, Claudia, the daughter of the warden of Incarceron, finds herself in communication with Finn, and both land in the midst of a web of lies including false identity, corruption of the thrown, technology that has taken on a life of its own, and a centuries-old conspiracy to cover a massive—failed—social project. As Claudia searches for a way into Incarceron, Finn searches for a way out, and both must face the consequences of their breach of the two worlds. This novel will no doubt appeal to steampunk fans, a genre that is growing within the teen community. A simultaneously romanticized and fractured version of the past alongside a precarious technology-driven future is a recipe for tension and anxiety, the kind that nourishes strong dystopian science fiction. Fisher's strength is in her respect for teen readers to enter this world where nothing is as it seems only to discover that solutions are not always what they want them to be. This tome is complicated and the resolution is fraught, but in ways that make the story work. Reviewer: Jennifer Miskec
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Finn is a denizen of Incarceron, a sentient prison in which generations of inmates struggle and fight for survival. Finn, however, is certain he comes from somewhere else. A strange tattoo and vague memories have convinced him that he comes from Outside. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Technology has been outlawed and society returned to a feudal time replete with rules, including arranged marriages. When the Queen and Claudia's father conspire to have her impending marriage to the heir moved forward, Claudia vows to do whatever it takes to avoid her fate. Finn and Claudia both acquire mysterious crystal keys that allow them to communicate, and it begins to be clear that each may be the other's way out. On the surface, Incarceron is a fast-paced if dense adventure that pits Finn against the prison and his fellow prisoners and Claudia against her father, her fiancé, and her society. If that were all, it would be a truly excellent fantasy novel. By delving into the philosophy of imprisonment and the development of society; discussing how history informs the present; and exploring self-awareness and sentience in nonhuman characters, Incarceron becomes something of a tour de force. The history of both Incarceron and Era are explored through excerpts from imagined legends and archival documents at the start of each chapter. The novel's length and complex plot may be daunting to some, but fans of steampunk and epic fantasy alike will be anxiously flipping pages and awaiting the sequel, already released in the U.K.—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A far-future thriller combines riveting adventure and masterful world-building with profound undertones. Finn cannot remember anything before awakening in the vast sentient prison called Incarceron, but he is sure that he comes from outside its hellish confines. Claudia has known nothing but luxury as the daughter of Incarceron's Warden; but she dreads her imminent marriage to the caddish prince of the Realms, which are trapped in a static reenactment of a pre-technological past. In parallel narratives, each discovers a chance of escape in matching crystal keys. Their separate quests gradually intertwine with increasing suspense, cresting in a series of shocking reversals and revelations. Claudia and Finn and their assorted companions are complex and comprehensible, engaging reader sympathies even as they mislead and betray each other. Elegant prose and precisely chosen details deftly construct two very different worlds, hinting at layers beneath the glimpses the tale permits; attentive readers will hear echoes of classic tales, resonant with implications about the meaning of stories, of faith and of freedom. Like the finest chocolate, a rich confection of darkness, subtlety and depth, bittersweet and absolutely satisfying. (Science fiction. YA)
Horn Book
Fisher's dystopic brilliantly realized..reader attention never flags through this elegant, gritty, often surprising novel.
[B]reathless pacing, an intelligent storyline, and superb detail...With some well-timed shocking twists and a killer ending, this is a must have.
Wall Street Journal
This book is a thriller of the highest order; Fisher could give the show "24" a run for its money with her twists and messed up characters...putting it down took a serious act of will.
Melanie Hundley
Incarceron is a prison . . . and it is alive. It began as an experiment, a model place where prisoners could be kept away from society but still flourish. The inmates live in cells surrounded by metal forests and rundown cities. Only one person, in all the centuries this prison has existed, has ever escaped. Finn and Claudia are desperate to escape to the Outside. Most prisoners don't believe Outside exists, but Finn believes it does. Claudia, the Warden's daughter, knows it does because she lives Outside. She promises to help Finn escape if he will help her avoid an arranged marriage. The first book in an exciting new series, Incarceron is full of unexpected twists and turns. The escape to Outside is more dangerous than Finn and Claudia could have ever imagined. Reviewer: Melanie Hundley
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
Finn, a prisoner inside the supposedly impenetrable and inescapable Incarceron—a living, breathing prison that controls the actions of its inhabitants—is convinced that he has not lived as an inmate his entire life, but he cannot remember his childhood. Claudia, the well-educated daughter of the warden of Incarceron faces marriage to the heir to the throne of her country, a despicable teen whom Claudia can barely stomach. Then Finn gets his hands on a crystal key that allows him to see beyond Incarceron to where Claudia lives on the outside. Working together, the two try to figure out how to free Finn without the Warden finding out. But as they look deeper into their own histories, they begin to understand that escaping the prison is no easy matter, especially as they come to realize the Warden's part in controlling the prison. This first book, in what is almost guaranteed to become a trilogy, has a solid balance of fantasy and fully dimensional characters. Young readers who like fantasy or who have already been introduced to Fisher through her "The Oracle Prophecy" series are certain to enjoy this first book in a new series. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Catherine Fisher's intelligent, genre-bending tale (Dial, 2010) will fascinate teens looking for something new and different. Finn is a 17-year old prisoner of Incarceron. His memories begin and end there. He knows nothing about his heritage except for vague memories that tease at his mind. The teen is determined to escape the prison fashioned centuries ago as a solution to the chaos created by man. Now Incarceron is self-sustaining and self-perpetuating—prisoners are born there and they die there. Legend claims only one man has ever escaped, Sapphique, and Finn is determined to follow in his steps. Claudia, the warden's daughter, lives sequestered in a castle surrounded by servants. But she, too, longs for escape—from a father who frightens her and from betrothal to an insipid prince. Finn and Claudia each discover a crystal key and are amazed to find that they can communicate with each other. As their trust in one another builds, each pledges to help the other. The two stories emerge, intertwine and, by the end, unwind in startling twists that will astonish listeners. Kim Mai Guest delivers an amazing, fully-voiced performance that vividly paints each character. Her pacing is impeccable and, in the last chapters, she delivers a one-two punch that will leave listeners breathless for the sequel, Sapphique, to be released in December.—Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613831175
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning Corporation
  • Publication date: 2/28/2011
  • Series: Incarceron Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 442
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Fisher is an acclaimed novelist and poet. Her work includes the acclaimed Oracle Trilogy (The Oracle, The Sphere of Secrets, and The Day of the Scarab), which was an international bestseller, and has appeared in more than twenty languages. She was born in Gwent, Wales, where she still lives.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 414 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 414 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Creative, Brilliant, Different.

    When I first started reading this I was concerned. Because I knew it would be different from my usual choices for reading. Which usually were all about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, fallen angels, etc. But I am incredibly happy that I took a chance on it and read it. Its amazing!

    In the beginning your introduced to Claudia's world and Finn's. Claudia lives Outside the prison, but things are not perfect for her. Her world is frozen in time, growth, progress, age, are all forbidden. And everyone has to adhere to "Protocol". Anything out side of Era is illegal, so basically technology of any kind. Claudia is the warden of Incarcerons daughter, and she has been preparing for an arranged marraige to a Prince named Caspar for many years. But she can't stand him, and desperatly wants out of the wedding. She also is very curious about Incarceron, her father never talks about it, and no one knows where it is. So she decides that with the help of her tutor Jared, she is going to break into her fathers private study. A room she's never seen and no one but her father goes into, and when he does go in he seems to be there for very long periods of time. When the chance arrives, she breaks in, but to her disappointment there isnt much to see. But she does find a crystal key, in a drawer that opened when she said the password "Incarceron".

    Incarceron is a vast, dark and dangerous place. The prison watches everyone with red eyes that are everywhere. It can create, destroy, and Incarceron can even Speak. Finn lives inside the prison and has no memory of his past, but he believes he came from Outside. After meeting a woman who recognized the marking on his wrist, he decides he has to know what she knows about it. The woman tells him that she simply noticed that the mark on his wrist matches the mark on a crystal she and some others found. Once Finn gets ahold of the crystal he recognizes it as a key.

    Claudia and Finn soon discover that their keys hold more power than they were aware of. They figure out that with them they can communicate with each other. Claudia immediatley decides she must help Finn Escape. And Finn finally having proof that there is an outside, with the help of his oathbrother Keiro, who is arrogant and all too aware of his good looks, And the wise Sapient, Gildas, set out on an adventure through Incarceron to find the way out. Just as one legendary man named Sapphique was said to have done long ago.

    This book is suspensful and inspiring, it is a book that will stay with you after you've finished. And I believe that some of the most powerful lines were delivered by the prison itself. Like when it said, "Can you even dream of being trapped inside your own mind, watching only those that inhabit it? They made me powerful and they made me flawed."

    I highly recommend this book to anyone, and I hope that this review was helpful.

    49 out of 52 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Non-Vision Visionary

    The initial idea for Incarceron was amazing, but I don't feel that Fisher executed that vision very well. I think she just tried to cram too much into the novel, and didn't take the time to expand on certain ideas. I never got a clear picture of Incarceron, so I am left disappointed.

    If you want an excellent read in this genre, try Hunger Games by Collins!

    20 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    Another book with no not buy this!

    Fisher is yet another author for young adults who is more concerned with her bank balance than crafting a great story. The story itself is marginal...the big "twist", well, you can see it coming a mile away. To top it off, there's no end to the story. This is yet another attempt by publishers and authors to force you to pay for three books to get one story. Few authors are as a gifted as JK Rowling, who was able to write 7 novels that stand alone, but are a fluid series. When you get hacks trying this what you get is 1/3 of a story for the price of a whole book. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! Get it from a library if you want to read it...don't let authors continue to do this!

    18 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    A dark and lovely book

    What is Incarceron? That mystery tugs the readers along through this fascinating tale - which I dearly hope will be followed by many others! A group of prisoners finds themselves following in the footsteps of a hero of old as they try to escape from the prison Incarceron, while on the outside, a young girl about to be married to a man she loathes tries desperately to navigate the dangerous political waters of a dystopic world. Readers will be consumed by the desire to see things work out well for this flawed-yet-lovable cast of characters.

    I read the entire book in two days, it was so absorbing. Any young adult reader would find it equally gripping.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Definitely Interesting

    As a total bibliophile, it's refreshing to find a fun read that doesn't fall in with any of the same-old cliches. I found the world of Incarceron to be intriguing and the mystery kept me turning pages through the night until I finally reached the end, and the conclusion left me longing for a sequel. If you're looking for something fresh and fun to read then this is a good pick for you.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Pretty Good

    I bought this book because of the The London Times review on the cover that said, "One of the best fantasy novels written in a long time." I think it was a good read but I don't think it lived up to that review. Incarceron was a challenging read. At times I was confused and really had to focus to grasp what was going on, especially in the beginning. It takes a while to come to an understanding of the terminology and to catch your bearings to understand the world inside this book. It seemed at times that Fisher had too much going on with not enough explanation. She definitely takes liberties with the science fiction aspect. At times it had the feeling that anything goes, whatever the characters needed to get out of their predicament. But I like the complexities of the characters and how they relate to each other. I feel invested in their outcome and I'm definitely looking forward to Sapphique, the sequel, to find out what happens.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    mind bottling

    It is rare that you find a book like Incarceron. With every page, you want to learn more about what happened, how the world got to the way it is. Once you get near the end, the concept and scope of Incarceron and the society is so mind bottling you can hardly wrap your head around it. There are times when you feel emence hope, and other times when you feel that hope is lightyears away. Some people think that parts of this book are boring, but i highly disagree. Though there isn't allways much action, there is always the anticapation of the mystery being uncovered. I highly recomend this book to anyone who enjoys fantisy

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2010

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    I was a little bored with this one

    I read the first 150 pages of this book and then walked away for two weeks. I just was kind of bored with it. I think that it is just not my style of book. I also was a little confused as to whether the reader is suppose to be rotting for Finn and Claudia to end up together. Is Attia a possible love match for Finn? Does Claudia have a thing for Jarrod? I know that there is another book so I guess if I really want to know I can just read that but..I just don't know if I can do it. I can see how some might love the book. There is action, adventure, mystery, etc.So if you love it great! If you don't.I feel you.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will quickly understand why the London Times calls this the book of the year

    Energy resources are severely depleted since the war occurred. To save what is left of civilization; Incarceron Prison was built to house dissidents, radicals and criminals. This was sealed up so no one can enter or leave. The idea led to a closed environment with excellent shelter, decent food and medical supplies so Incarceron would become a Utopia. Instead reality and the dream fail to match as the world became hell on earth.

    Finn believes his visions are memories of a life outside the prisons. He wants to escape along with his oath brother Keiro, slave girl Attia, and sapient Gildas. On the Outside, time stopped and society has become medieval with advanced technology banned by the ruling Protocol. Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron is expected to marry the Queen's son and heir Earl Casper; she does not want to marry him. She was to wed his half-brother Giles who died in a freak accident whom she wanted to wed. When evidence surfaces that Giles is alive and inside Incarceron, she vows to get to him at the risk of her life.

    Readers will quickly understand why the London Times calls this the book of the year as the story line plays out on several Orwellian levels that hook diverse age groups. Incarceron is a huge prison with an internal caste system and incredible security. People are there for life to include newborns. Finn is a loyal person taking care of friends inside a horrible containment zone risking his life to do so. Claudia likewise does the same when she tries to breach the great prison to save her beloved. Catherine Fisher provides a powerful tale as if the Knights of the Round Table took the Journey to the Center of the Earth only to find a 1984 setting.

    Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012


    I thought this book wa extremly unique. The writing style was beauiful and the plot was excelent. Do your self a favor and buy this book. It is my all time favorite.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012


    I didn't understand this book at all. I didn't understand the polt or the charaters. It was just too confusing.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Good, with an exception.

    When I first got this book, it was because the description was extremely captivating. My Dad also told me that lots of people said it was the new Harry Potter. Honestly, I think that is wrong. This book was entertaining, thrilling, and edgy, but it lacked that wow factor that Harry Potter had. When I read harry potter, I was amazed by Rowling's imagination. It was simple brilliant, the way everything tied together in the end. Incarceron is a VERY good book, but not quite as satisfying as Harry Potter, Eragon, and Twilight. The two main characters didn't interact as much as i would have liked, but the story does end well.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:


    This book over all was very well thought out. The story lacked but the imagination was brilliant. I couldn't think of a more functioning prision as the one in Incarceron. The plot was phenominal and the characters were alright. At some points in the story it was brilliant then at others it was dissapointing. But a nice fatasy thriller. It is also confusing at first but becomes all clear as you progress into the story.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Catherine Fisher's Incarceron

    Incarceron is a vast, maze-like prison where the inmates believe that it's impossible to escape, and some doubt the existence of a world outside the prison, but they also have legends about someone who did escape. Finn was supposedly born in the prison, but he only remembers the past two years.

    He meets a wise woman who recognizes the tattoo on his wrist and who thus gives him hope.
    When Finn's companions betray her, he acquires a key through which a young woman named Claudia speaks, whom Finn believes can help him escape the prison. Claudia, meanwhile, needs to escape the future prison of marriage to a prince whom she despises.

    This is a magical world in which the elite own high technology but cling to Renaissance-era protocol and fashion, and where the unfortunate spend their entire lives in prison. Readers will find Incarceron better than the Harry Potter books, and I hope that it becomes just as popular.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Admittedly I did not finish this book. This is another one that

    Admittedly I did not finish this book. This is another one that I only read half way through & just could not read any more. Which was seriously disappointing because I had been wanting to read Incarceron for ages because the entire idea of a prison in a house that is pretty much sentient was a thrilling prospect in my opinion. I adored the setting & the way the house did, as the book went along, take on quite a life of its own. Not to mention it was vast & all-encompassing which gave the entire story a macabre, monster-always-around-the-corner, type feel to it.

    That being said, I could not connect with the characters at all. We are introduced to Finn in the midst of a con that ultimately ends up in an innocent woman dying. Right away I disliked his method of survival & the people he chose to hang around, namely his "oath brother" who seemed like a personality at the height of sociopathy from the get go. There was no rhyme or reason to their relationship or any of the others Finn had within Incarceron.

    Then Claudia is tossed into the mix. She is not in Incarceron but has a driving desire to find out more about it. She was apparently trained by her father from her infancy to withstand marriage to the scoundrel she has been betrothed to through some possibly secret conspiracy. She believes her mother-in-law-to-be may have killed her original intended groom & schemes & plans to find out as much as she can. Which would have been interesting if there had been some reason for me to care about what happened to her. She is a cold, bland, aloof little princess who, had she a spunky best friend to draw her out, might have been sympathetic but never came across that way. Instead I half wondered if she wasn't a robot but didn't feel like slogging through more of the story to find out.

    I know that Incarceron has a huge following & I read many enthusiastic reviews of it so writing this one myself is a big disappointment. I really wanted to like this book but I just didn't. I would recommend it to those who enjoy odd dystopians with steampunk twists who can bond with characters in spite of those things I felt Finn & Claudia lacked. It's not a horrible book at all -- just not a book for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    Couldn't get into it. :/

    Seems like it could be a good story, but i just couldn't get into it. Maybe i'll try it again later. :]

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    It's okay...

    This book is pretty good. Mostly, however, it's confusing yet obvious, and sometimes introduces details that were never mentioned before, and tries to make sense of them. Overall, the concept is fascinating, but the author mostly dulls down the wonder. If you're going to read this book, get it from the library or from a friend. DON'T pay the ten bucks for it. I hope this review helped see the TRUE nature of the book. I'm not saying it's bad, but it could be better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2012

    New Spin in Fantasy!

    Fisher takes readers on an adventure with this new direction of incorporating two different realms into one. It is a unique story and I am looking forward to starting the next book. I recommend it to anyone that likes authors like Funke, Mull or Chima.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012


    Okay nothing great bout it

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Extremely Confusing

    From the start, it began to list random people and random things. It should have started out with Finn simply entering Incarceron by accident, and discovering everything as the reader discovers everything, and not beginning it as if Finn has been in Incarceron for years. When I picked this up, I adored the idea and concept of this. But the author made this a must-not-read instead of a must-read. The courtly things with Claudia are absolutely ridiculous. Do not buy this novel.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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