Seventeen-year-old Finn is convinced he does not belong in Incarceron, the endless nightmare of a prison. Created hundreds of years ago by the wise council of the Sapienti, Incarceron is unlike any prison ever constructed. Prisoners do not just live in cells but also the world that is Incarceron. This includes rundown cities, unbridled wilderness, deep chasms and the unknown. According to legend, only one man has ever escaped to the “Outside”: the mysterious Sapphique. Finn plans on following in Sapphique’s footsteps, but a few obstacles stand in his way, one of which is the person who overlooks Incarceron: the Warden.
On the Outside, only the Warden knows the secrets of Incarceron, and he has no plans to share them, not even to his only daughter, Claudia. Being the Warden’s daughter, Claudia has been exposed to the finest things money can buy. Her trusty tutor, Jared, has left out nothing from her top-notch education. There are strings attached to this upbringing, however, and the Warden has slowly been preparing Claudia to become queen in an arranged marriage she is dreading. It doesn’t help that she is also terrified of her father and his power over both her and Incarceron.
Circumstances begin to change for Finn and Claudia when they both come into possession of a mysterious crystal key. Claudia managed to swipe hers from her father’s study, while Finn procured his after a deadly hostage exchange. Not only do the keys enable Finn to unlock doors within Incarceron, they also allow Claudia and Finn to see and hear each other. Armed with this new power, they pledge to help one another escape their ill-fated situations.
Claudia is now in a race against time. Her marriage is only days away, and she is determined to help Finn escape --- even if that means entering Incarceron herself. But a conspiracy brewing in the royal court just may end any hope of rescue. She is also unsure how to avoid the all-knowing, all-condemning authority of the Warden.
Meanwhile, Finn is in a battle against both himself and the deadly prison. Untold dangers lay ahead the dark and twisting world of Incarceron. Finn’s band of followers --- oathbrother Keiro, slave-girl Attia and resident prophet Gildas --- are just as clueless as Finn. Does he have enough determination to overcome the deception of Incarceron, and is it even possible for someone to leave? Incarceron is alive, watching and waiting.
The idea of putting the world’s criminals, terrorists and murderers into a self-sustaining prison is both alluring and intriguing. Not only would it potentially rid the world of immediate danger, it would also place the prisoners in a supernatural environment that appears free from the restrictions of a cell. Author Catherine Fisher takes this theory and runs with it. She has the difficult task of creating two completely opposite worlds and melding them into one storyline --- and ultimately succeeds on every level. Fantasy-lovers will be drawn into the worlds of INCARCERON and will not be disappointed in Fisher’s clever and expertly crafted plot. Add this one to your reading list immediately.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on February 8, 2011