by Catherine Fisher
I've been looking forward to this book forever!! So excited when I finally got it :) And this is the first book in a series, the sequel, Sapphique is released later this year I believe.
Summary (from goodreads):
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 ...
My Expectations: I don’t know where I read this, but on a British online blog (one of those really professional ones) there was a review stating how it is the best book the reviewer has ever read. Ever since then I’ve had huge expectations, and been coveting this book forever (even before it was released in North America).
Delivery: Fell short. It left me disappointed, I guess I should have listened to those mixed reviews.
Put-down-ability: probably a 7/10. Took me a while to get through the first half, but the last bit was great.
As I stated, I had high hopes for this book based on one really charming and well written review. I thought it would be an epic fantasy novel that has all of my favourite important parts like characters and plot. Unfortunately, I found it average in most cases.
The set-up of the novel, I thought, was absolutely thrilling and fantastic. Think about it: a real live prison that doesn’t allow Escape, can move and talk… I want to pick Ms. Fisher’s brain to figure out where she thought of such an ingenious idea. And the name… Incarceron, just brilliant. This premise raises the bar for fantasy novels. It wove in technology seamlessly as well.
The plot was two intertwined storylines of Finn who is Inside Incarceron, and Claudia who is Outside. I felt both storylines had potential and promise, but neither blew me away. I thought the concept of trying to escape, and the communication crystals between the two was a clever idea. A thing I admired about the novel is how it delves into what happens when people are stuck in a metaphorical “hell”, and what type of people they become… Something I particularly enjoyed was the fast-paced action scenes, but this did come at a cost of character development.
The novel is very much centered around the two characters and their own personal journeys. Finn and I had a love/hate relationship. On one hand, I was constantly annoyed by how naïve and stupid he was acting, and how he refused to see the faults in others. On the other hand, I thought he was brave and caring, especially towards Attia. I felt the minor characters, although they had their secrets and stuff, weren’t as fleshed out as I hoped.
For Claudia’s side of the story.. I loved Jared. Not love as in a character-crush, but more like a “he’s such a great character” love. He was so resourceful, smart, and supportive of Claudia and sometimes I felt he deserved a bit more. I thought Claudia could also be selfish, naïve, and childish at times, always doing things her way. Other times she would be an endearing heroine who just wanted to escape a doomed arranged marriage and help out Finn. I love the “politics” of the Outside, with the conspiracy for the throne—a great addition to the book.
One thing I found particularly intriguing was Claudia’s relationship with the Warden. It reminded me of Fire and Cansrel in Fire by Kristin Cashore. Anyone else think so? And Keiro, Finn’s oathbrother, I loved the mystery of him (good or bad?? Kept me guessing).
Lastly, the writing was solid. Nothing really made me fall out of my chair, but I think for a novel written in third person (I do gripe about 3rd person POV a lot, don’t I? I’m sorry) it was smooth and flowing, showing enough and telling enough. However, it wasn’t as engaging as I hoped it would be. It just couldn’t keep up a fast pace or the suspense at times, so I found myself putting down the book a few times during the beginning. Towards the end though, I zoomed through it. The ending was very well done, with kinda-tied-ends but still pretty open for the sequel, Sapphique.
7.8/10- because I thought the premise was amazingly well done. I had nitpicks with most of the characters and their development, but felt that the plot was solid. The writing was also pretty decent, but nothing that blew me away, nor kept me engaged at all times. I found myself distracted and putting down this book, which I really had hoped wouldn’t happen when I started it. Will I read the sequel? Probably.
A 7.8 is a nice, well-rounded B grade.
I would recommend this to people who enjoy well-strung fantasy, or YA in general (I think this book would be appealing for many different people). I do recommend it, and hope you like it more than I do!