Teen Book Review: "Incarceron"

Feeling a bit trapped because you still have two more months of school to go?  Well, be that as it may, I doubt your feelings come anywhere close to those of Finn and Claudia. He’s trapped in a world that wants to torture and destroy him, while she’s trapped in the game of politics and betrayal that could be just as deadly.  Intrigued?  Read Incarceron, the latest book from Catherine Fisher. 

Incarceron is a giant sentient prison, with millions of prisoners that it torments and terrorizes with unimaginable monsters.  Whenever people die, their bodies are recycled, and a new inmate is created.  Finn the Starseer is one such person, but lingering memories and visions have him convinced that he comes from Outside, and he wants to escape.  When he finds a crystal Key, he is able to communicate with Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron’s warden. 

Outside the prison, the world has been frozen in a feudal system of Time, and the enforcement of Protocol stifles any scientific progress and forces most of the world to live in poverty, with only the rich and royal enjoying any luxury.  Claudia wishes to escape her arranged marriage to Prince Caspar, something her power-hungry father orchestrated years ago.  She thinks Finn can help her, because he may be the true hjeir to the throne, Giles, who supposedly died years ago.  Can Claudia help Finn escape, and even if she does, can Finn be saved from the machinations of those who imprisoned him and want him dead?

The worlds of Incarceron are great characters in and of themselves.  It’s hard to find descriptions in literature of any place bleaker than Incarceron save the underworld.  The evil gangs, ferocious beasts and deadly intrigue make it the last place you want to end up.  Likewise, the Outside world is caught in a trap of no progress.

Of the two main protagonists, Claudia seems to go through the most change, using her great bravery and righteous anger to fight against those trying to trap her.  Finn also gains courage and resolve, and the colorful cast of characters around him both help and hinder his progress.  He is never quite sure he can trust anyone, not even himself. This tale jumps from one action-packed or tense scene to the next, and the wealth of unanswered questions about how the prisoners will escape from Incarceron will leave readers eagerly looking for this book’s sequel. 

Incarceron is recommended for mid- to late-teen readers.  Check it out, along with its sequel, Sapphique, at any DC Public Library today!

--by Brandon Digwood