Series: Incarceron Series
Author: Catherine Fisher
First Published: May 3, 2007
“Only the man who has known freedom can define his prison.”
First of all can we just take a second and talk about how PRETTY THIS COVER IS? Yes part of me wanted this book just because of the cover. I mean LOOK AT IT! Anyhow – let’s get started with the actual review before I get lost in gushing about the gorgeous cover art.
Incarceron is the name of a prison. Created by the Sapienti during a time of discovery it’s the product of very advanced technology. The King Endor however released a royal decree in which he says that time would be stopped so the world could be free of the anxiety of change and now the realm is trapped in the 17th century. Finn is one of the people living in Incarceron, which turns to be very much alive. When he was 15 years old he woke up inside the prison without any memories of his life at all. He became a part of the Comitatus and together with them he attacks and raids other groups of inmates in order to get food, clothing and other resources. It’s been three years since Finn woke up without any knowledge of who he is and ever since then he has been plagued by visions. These visions seem to be showing him memories of his life Outside. However since the gates to Incarceron were closed no one has gone in or out of the prison and only one person has ever managed to escape its walls. A mysterious key finds its way to Finn and he decides to try to escape with some of his friends. His hopes for help in this endeavour lie with a girl named Claudia, who is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron and is living Outside. She is living a life of luxury in the countryside and she is betrothed to the Queen’s son. Claudia holds the same key as Finn, which she stole from her father and which gives the two a way of communicating with each other.
The world that Catherine Fisher created is a very complex one. The idea of a prison that is alive is something very new and I very much enjoyed reading about it. In the beginning it all seems very confusing, but the reader gradually learns more about the world and its working as the story continues. The structure inside of the prison is a mixture of medieval times and high technology. Incarceron was created to contain the scum of mankind. 70 Sapienti willingly let themselves be locked in with the prisoners in order to nurture those skills that couldn’t be honed by the prison itself. Since the gates have been sealed no one has come into the prison or left it. Incarceron makes new prisoners itself, it recycles the dead and it replaces missing biological mass with metal. Nothing goes to waste in Incarceron. The people Outside believe Incarceron is a paradise and the people in it are happy. However the prison is a cruel place.
As much as I enjoyed the world building in this book, I did however have some problems with the story. The biggest problem for me was probably that I for the life of me couldn’t connect with the characters at all. Claudia is your stereotypical rich girl living a sheltered and pampered life. She wasn’t unlikable, but I wished she had a bit more substance. Finn is also not a character who remained etched in my memory. I already forgot mostly everything there is to know about the two of them. I did enjoy it more to read about Finn though. It was fun to learn more about the prison and it’s quirks and workings and it was very exciting to read Finn’s and his friend’s story since they were in constant danger of being harmed in some way by Incarceron.
Additionally what really bothered me were the explanations provided or generally the whole idea behind the book, which didn’t seem to be very well worked out. I thought it was a bit disappointing that the author didn’t take more time to structure her idea a bit more thoroughly. I also constantly had the feeling that there was something more to come. A surprising turn of events, a small shocking moment – just SOMETHING that would evoke a “Holy Crap” moment for me. That sadly didn’t happen. Furthermore I didn’t like the ending that much even though it brought one of those lovely little twists I was missing throughout the book, which gave the story a nice climax, but the eventual meeting of the characters just happened a bit too quickly for me and didn’t really have a logical explanation.
Incarceron is quite an enjoyable read. Explanations and at some parts also logic is left to the reader’s imagination, which sometimes really bothered me, but all in all I liked the story because of its fresh and fascinating idea. And since there is no romance happening, the book concentrates solely on the plot, which I absolutely loved!
— Alina xx