A thrilling, high-concept fantasy for fans of Garth Nix and Nancy Farmer.
Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness. Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from Outside Incarceron. Very few prisoners believe that there is an Outside, however, which makes escape seems impossible.
And then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside- she is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, and doomed to an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know.
About the Author
Catherine Fisher is an acclaimed novelist and poet, and has written many fantasy books for young people, including the popular "Oracle Betrayed" series. She lives in Wales.
Read an Excerpt
Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.
His arms, spread wide, were weighted with links so heavy, he could barely drag his wrists off the ground. His ankles were tangled in a slithering mass of metal, bolted through a ring in the pavement. He couldn’t raise his chest to get enough air. He lay exhausted, the stone icy against his cheek.
But the Civicry were coming at last.
He felt them before he heard them; vibrations in the ground, starting tiny and growing until they shivered in his teeth and nerves. Then noises in the darkness, the rumble of migration trucks, the slow hollow clang of wheel rims. Dragging his head around, he shook dirty hair out of his eyes and saw how the parallel grooves in the floor arrowed straight under his body. He was chained directly across the tracks.
Sweat slicked his forehead. Gripping the frosted links with one glove he hauled his chest up and gasped in a breath. The air was acrid and smelled of oil.
It was no use yelling yet. They were too far off and wouldn’t hear him over the clamor of the wheels until they were well into the vast hall. He would have to time it exactly. Too late, and the trucks couldn’t be stopped, and he would be crushed. Desperately, he tried to avoid the other thought. That they might see him and hear him and not even care.
Small, bobbing, handheld lights. Concentrating, he counted nine, eleven, twelve; then counted them again to have a number that was firm, that would stand against the nausea choking his throat.
Nuzzling his face against the torn sleeve for some comfort he thought of Keiro, his grin, the last mocking little slap as he’d checked the lock and stepped back into the dark. He whispered the name, a bitter whisper: “Keiro.”
Vast halls and invisible galleries swallowed it. Fog hung in the metallic air. The trucks clanged and groaned.
He could see people now, trudging. They emerged from the darkness so muffled against the cold, it was hard to tell if they were children or old, bent women. Probably childrenthe aged, if they kept any, would ride on the trams, with the goods. A black-and-white ragged flag draped the leading truck; he could see its design, a heraldic bird with a silver bolt in its beak.
“Stop!” he called. “Look! Down here!”
The grinding of machinery shuddered the floor. It whined in his bones. He clenched his hands as the sheer weight and impetus of the trucks came home to him, the smell of sweat from the massed ranks of men pushing them, the rattle and slither of piled goods. He waited, forcing his terror down, second by second testing his nerve against death, not breathing, not letting himself break, because he was Finn the Starseer, he could do this. Until from nowhere a sweating panic erupted and he heaved himself up and screamed, “Did you hear me! Stop! Stop!”
They came on.
The noise was unbearable. Now he howled and kicked and struggled, because the terrible momentum of the loaded trucks would slide relentlessly, loom over him, darken him, crush his bones and body in slow inevitable agony.
Until he remembered the flashlight.
It was tiny but he still had it. Keiro had made sure of that. Dragging the weight of the chain, he rolled and wriggled his hand inside his coat, wrist muscles twisting in spasm. His fingers slid on the slim cold tube.
Vibrations shuddered through his body. He jerked the flashlight out and dropped it and it rolled, just out of reach. He cursed, squirmed, pressed it on with his chin.
He was gasping with relief, but the trucks still came on. Surely the Civicry could see him. They must be able to see him! The flashlight was a star in the immense rumbling darkness of the hall, and in that moment, through all its stairs and galleries and thousands of labyrinthine chambers he knew Incarceron had sensed his peril, and the crash of the trucks was its harsh amusement, that the Prison watched him and would not interfere.
“I know you can see me!” he screamed.
The wheels were man-high. They shrieked in the grooves; sparks fountained across the paving. A child called, a high shout, and Finn groaned and huddled tight, knowing none of it had worked, knowing it was finished, and then the wail of the brakes hit him, the screech in his bones and fingers.
The wheels loomed. They were high above. They were over him.
They were still.
He couldn’t move. His body was a limp rag of terror. The flashlight illuminated nothing but a fist-thick rivet in an oily flange.
Then, beyond it, a voice demanded, “What’s your name, Prisoner?”
They were gathered in the darkness. He managed to lift his head and saw shapes, hooded.
“Finn. My name’s Finn.” His voice was a whisper; he had to swallow. “I didn’t think you were going to stop . . .”
A grunt. Someone else said, “Looks like Scum to me.”
“No! Please! Please get me up.” They were silent and no one moved, so he took a breath and said tightly, “The Scum raided our Wing. They killed my father and they left me like this for anyone who passed.” He tried to ease the agony in his chest, clenching his fingers on the rusty chain. “Please. I’m begging you.”
Someone came close. The toe of a boot halted next to his eye; dirty, with one patched hole.
“What sort of Scum?”
“The Comitatus. Their leader called himself Jormanric the Winglord.”
The man spat, close to Finn’s ear. “That one! He’s a crazed thug.”
Why was nothing happening? Finn squirmed, desperate. “Please! They may come back!”
“I say we ride over him. Why interfere?”
“Because we’re Civicry, not Scum.” To Finn’s surprise, a woman. He heard the rustle of her silk clothes under the coarse travelcoat. She knelt and he saw her gloved hand tug at the chains. His wrist was bleeding; rust made powdery loops on his grimy skin.
The man said uneasily, “Maestra, listen . . .”
“Get bolt-cutters, Sim. Now.”
Her face was close to Finn’s. “Don’t worry, Finn. I won’t leave you here.”
Painfully, he looked up, saw a woman of about twenty, her hair red, her eyes dark. For a moment he smelled her; a drift of soap and soft wool, a heart-stabbing scent that broke into his memory, into that black locked box inside him. A room. A room with an applewood fire. A cake on a china plate.
The shock must have shown on his face; from the shadow of her hood she looked at him thoughtfully. “You’ll be safe with us.”
Finn stared back. He couldn’t breathe.
A nursery. The walls stone. The hangings rich and red.
A man came hastily and slid the cutter under the chain. “Watch your eyes,” he growled. Finn dropped his head on his sleeve, sensing people crowding around. For a moment he thought one of the fits he dreaded was coming over him; he closed his eyes and felt the familiar dizzying heat sweep his body. He fought it, swallowing saliva, gripping the chains as the massive cutters sheared them open. The memory was fading; the room and the fire, the cake with tiny silver balls on a gold-bordered plate. Even as he tried to keep it, it was gone, and the icy darkness of Incarceron was back, the sour metallic stench of oily wheels.
Links slid and rattled. He heaved himself upright in relief, dragging in deep breaths. The woman took his wrist and turned it over. “This will need dressing.”
He froze. He couldn’t move. Her fingers were cool and clean, and she had touched him on his skin, between the torn sleeve and the glove, and she was looking at the tiny tattoo of the crowned bird.
She frowned. “That’s not a Civicry mark. It looks like . . .”
“What?” He was alert at once. “Like what?”
A rumble miles off in the hall. The chains at his feet slithered. Bending over them the man with the cutters hesitated. “That’s odd. This bolt. It’s loose . . .”
The Maestra stared at the bird. “Like the crystal.”
A shout, behind them.
“What crystal?” Finn said.
“A strange object. We found it.”
“And the bird is the same? You’re sure?”
“Yes.” Distracted, she turned and looked at the bolt. “You weren’t really”
He had to know about this. He had to keep her alive. He grabbed her and pulled her to the floor. “Get down,” he whispered. And then, angrily, “Don’t you understand? It’s all a trap.”
For a moment her eyes stared into his and he saw their surprise fractured into horror. She jerked out of his grip; with one twist was up and screaming, “Run! Everyone run!” But the grids in the floor were crashing open; arms came out, bodies were heaved up, weapons slammed down on the stone.
Finn moved. He flung the man with the cutters back, kicked the false bolt off, and wriggled out of the chains. Keiro was yelling at him; a cutlass flashed past his head and he threw himself down, rolled, and looked up.
The hall was black with smoke. The Civicry were screaming, racing for the shelter of the vast pillars, but already the Scum were on the wagons, firing indiscriminately, red flashes from the clumsy firelocks turning the hall acrid.
He couldn’t see her. She might be dead, she might be running. Someone shoved him and thrust a weapon into his hand; he thought it was Lis, but the Scum all wore their dark helms and he couldn’t tell.
Then he saw the woman. She was pushing children under the first wagon; a small boy was sobbing and she grabbed him and flung him in front of her. But gas was hissing from the small spheres that fell and cracked like eggs, its sting making Finn’s eyes water. He pulled out his helm and dragged it on, the soaked pads over nose and mouth magnifying his breathing. Through its eye grid the hall was red, the figures clear.
She had a weapon and was firing with it.
It was Keiro, but Finn ignored the shout. He ran for the first truck, dived under it, and grabbed the Maestra’s arm; as she turned he knocked the weapon aside and she screamed in anger and went for his face with her nailed gloves, the spines clawing at his helm. As he dragged her out, the children kicked and struggled with him, and a cascade of foodstuffs was tossed down around them, caught, stowed, slid efficiently into chutes down the grids.
An alarm howled.
Smooth panels slid aside in the walls; with a click, spotlights of brilliant light stabbed down from the invisible roof, roaming back and forth over the distant floor, picking out the Scum as they scattered like rats, their stark shadows enormous.
“Evacuate!” Keiro yelled.
Finn pushed the woman on. Next to them a running figure was drilled with light and evaporated soundlessly, caught in mid-panic. Children wailed.
The woman turned, breathless with shock, staring back at the remnants of her people. Then Finn dragged her to the chute.
Through the mask his eyes met hers.
“Down there,” he gasped. “Or you’ll die.”
For a moment he almost thought she wouldn’t.
Then she spat at him, snatched herself out of his hands, and jumped into the chute.
A spark of white fire scorched over the stones; instantly, Finn jumped after her.
The chute was of white silk, strong and taut. He slid down it in a breathlessness that tipped him out at the other end onto a pile of stolen furs and bruising metal components.
Already hauled to one side, a weapon at her head, the Maestra watched in scorn.
Finn picked himself up painfully. All around, the Scum were sliding into the tunnel, encumbered with plunder, some hobbling, some barely conscious. Last of all, landing lightly on his feet, came Keiro.
The grids slammed shut.
The chutes fell away.
Dim shapes gasped and coughed and tore off masks.
Keiro removed his slowly, revealing his handsome face smeared with dust. Finn swung on him in fury. “What happened? I was panicked out there! What took you so long?”
Keiro smiled. “Calm down. Aklo couldn’t get the gas to work. You kept them talking well enough.” He looked at the woman. “Why bother with her?”
Finn shrugged, still simmering. “She’s a hostage.”
Keiro raised an eyebrow. “Too much trouble.” He jerked his head at the man holding the weapon; the man snicked back the trigger. The Maestra’s face was white.
“So I don’t get anything extra for risking my life up there.” Finn’s voice was steady. He didn’t move, but Keiro looked over at him. For a moment they stared at each other. Then his oathbrother said coolly, “If she’s what you want.”
“She’s what I want.”
Keiro glanced at the woman again, and shrugged. “No accounting for taste.” He nodded, and the weapon was lowered. Then he slapped Finn on the shoulder, so that a cloud of dust rose from his clothes. “Well done, brother,” he said.
What People are Saying About This
“Fisher creates a world of danger and suspense that will keep readers ensnared.”–BookPage
“Fisher scores a resounding success in this beautifully imagined science fantasy… Complex and inventive with numerous and rewarding mysteries.”–The San Francisco Examiner
“TOP PICK! Readers will be left anxiously awaiting a sequel.”–Romantic Times
“Fisher’s characters are emotionally resonant, flawed, determined, and plagued by metaphysical questions... With some well-timed shocking twists and a killer ending, this is a must have.”–Booklist
“Fisher’s dystopic future, in which technology and decay coexist in a dazzling kaleidoscope of images and time periods, is brilliantly realized… Elegant, gritty, often surprising.”–The Horn Book
“Fisher scores a resounding success in this beautifully imagined science fantasy.”–Publishers Weekly
“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.”–School Library Journal
“A far-future thriller combines riveting adventure and masterful world-building with profound undertones… Like the finest chocolate, a rich confection of darkness, subtlety and depth, bittersweet and absolutely satisfying.”–Kirkus Reviews
“An imaginative adventure unlike any other. There's a dark sophistication to it that sets it apart and makes it a delicious read.”–Deseret News
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Incarceron is my favorite book ever. I was left wanting more after every single sentence let alone page. Catherine Fisher describes the world of Incarceron and the world Outside in such detail as if to let the reader into the world and into the story. I have nothing bad to say about Incarceron, it is just an amazing book. I am extremely glad that I read the book and recommend it to anyone looking for a thrill.
Absolutely love this book
Ok im not one to hate on books but this seriously was predictible.. the first few chapter give away the whole story and ya its a good storyline but it wasnt written wright. Not enough suspense or action just a bit dull and explaining instead of letting u think.. Sorry but it needs a little work. Overall good plot. Kinda :|
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.
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.
Incarceron takes place in a prison, where the prison creates your world and your watched every second. Finn is in his late teen and has dreams of stars;but, he cannot remember much from his past, outside of Incarceron. Striving him to go 'outside' and find out about his past. So Finn; Gilda,a sapient; Keiro, Finn's oath-brother; and Attia, a slave Finn sets free. All go on a journey to escape from the prison, and stay a live. Incarceron is very exciting and keeps you guessing. Catherine Fisher knows how to hook the readers. She writes in excellent description, making you feel like you were there in the book. I would recommend Incarceron to people 12-16 years old.
Incarceron is a page-turner that doesn't what you to put it down. I couldn't rate it a five because there was something slightly missing. I couldn't quite put my finger on it... It may be that some characters weren't fleshed-out enough. But - ultimately it doesn't matter because it was an excellent read. Can't wait to get the sequel!
To be honest the only reason I picked this up was because every time I logged into the B&N website it was right there. There are parts of this book that are somewhat confusing, but there's so many subplots and the reveals by the end of the book are so many that you can't help but being drawn in. It is definitely unlike anything I've picked up from the YA section, which bring me to my next point. While I got this book from the YA I thought it's material for older teens, IDK I got freaked out by some passages (I am terribly squeamish though, and who knows what kids read these days!). There are hints to a triangle, but nothing worth mentioning, so if you like your books without romance this one is for you. At the beginning is hard to understand this new world that Fisher created, but once you do, you enjoy the book a lot more. It's definitely one of those books that is plot driven, and creates a new world for you to immerse in. At the same time, it is hard to pick "favorite character" since they all serve a purpose in the story and you don't get to know them that well.
The cover art and summery of this book made it really intriguing but, it was confusing, the characters weren't believable, stuff was left unexplained, and the action seens could have been more intense. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book just not one for rereading. That's all.
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.
Imagine a prison that encompasses a whole world of fantastical people and creatures inside its walls: cities, metal forests, deep caves, and sanctuaries in the sky. That is Incarceron. Built to be the perfect prison after a time of unrest in the greater world around it, Incarceron was also meant to be a utopian place where the first prisoners could rehabilitate, and those who were born there afterward could live in peace. Once it was created the doors were sealed completely; no one was able to either arrive or escape. Yet, Finn the Starseer believes he was not born inside. He has visions, possibly vague memories of birthday cakes and lakes and starry skies. He's also heard the legend of Sapphique, a wise man from long ago whom the stories say found a way out. Now Finn has found a crystal key with the emblem of a crowned eagle on it, an eagle that matches the tattoo on his wrist. He's sure the key can lead him out of Incarceron and help him find the truth about his past. A group of friends embarks along with him on the quest, desperate to also find a way out of the prison that has become more of a Hell than a Utopia. Claudia is the Warden of Incarceron's daughter. Engaged to the crown prince, she has been raised to be part of the court since the time she was born. But she wants no part of the intrigue and plots common at court. As her wedding approaches, she becomes desperate to find a way out of her prescribed life. When she discovers her father's crystal key, she finds herself able to communicate with Finn. Together they try to solve the mystery of Finn's identity and get him out of prison, which may also help Claudia change her fate. Incarceron is Catherine Fisher's highly imaginative fantasy novel about life in a future time where the technology exists to create a prison of Incarceron's magnitude. Richly imagined details bring the grimy, bleak reality of prison to life. A quote at the beginning helps to define reality for many of the characters: "Only the man who has known freedom can define his prison." Everyone is seeking freedom of some kind, but they don't always know what getting it will mean, and how freedom will change their lives. I was totally drawn into the dark dangers of the prison world. I could feel the eye of Incarceron as it searched its depths, always watching those who lived within. Claudia also faces dangers, but hers are more camouflaged, and less easy to identify. I found myself wanting to race through the book to find out what happens at the end, and yet longing to linger over the details and savor this other world so vividly realized. Incarceron provides that kind of delicious balance that will have you impatiently waiting for the sequel, Sapphique, set to be released at the end of 2010. I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up.
This was one of those books that I really wanted to take my time reading---the writing is clean, evocative; the characters flawed and intriguing; and I didn't want to miss any of the details that might be important later. But the mystery of Incarceron is so compelling that I had to keep reminding myself to slow down, to savor the story as it unfolded. That turned out to be just about impossible...I couldn't put the book down! Someday I'd like to go back and rediscover all of the subtle touches that make Incarceron's world so vivid and engaging---and because the book pairs a suspenseful adventure with some fascinating notions about technology and the nature of humanity and its prisons, I know this is a book I can look forward to reading again and again!
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.
Best new book so far this year - OK not much of the year so far, but Catherine Fisher has set the bar high. Last thing I enjoyed this much was Boneshaker. The story reminds me of Jay Lake's Mainspring, but only reminds me. It's originality in concept is carried through with solid execution and makes me wish the second book was already out even though Incarceron is only three days old now. The frontispiece labels this as fantasy and I suspect that is the result of a failure to be able to properly classify the book as well as a marketing ploy. While it contains steampunk elements as well as Science Fiction, Incarceron is not unlike Mieville's Perdido Street Station in that it refuses to be pigeon holed. The pace is fast, the times desparate and the characters unique and likeable - why aren't you reading it now? You should fix that . . .