Book Review: ‘Incarceron’ by Catherine Fisher

Posted: 8 January 2016 in Book reviews
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All is not well in The Realm. Claudia is the daughter of John Arlex, the Warden of Incarceron. With her father having such a prestigious title, life for her should have been ideal. But it wasn’t. In some ways she despised her father, his calm, condescending demeanour. But the discoveries she will uncover even she couldn’t have imagined.

The Realm is a land forbidden from progress. Returned to an era akin to the 17th century, people are stuck in an artificial existence. Claudia is arranged to marry to crown prince Caspar. She despises him. She was first betrothed to his elder half-brother Giles, but he died young in a tragic riding accident. Claudia feels something isn’t right about his death, that he was actually murdered by his step-mother the Queen. Her tutor, a Sapient, Jared seems to believe this also. Especially when a letter is unearthed from the Queen addressed to Claudia’s father. With only days left before her wedding, the two break into the Warden’s study. Inside she finds a desk with a key, a crystal key adorned with an eagle in flight.

Inside Incarceron is Finn, a prisoner with no memories. People assume he is a child of the prison, but visions induced by seizures make him believe he’s from outside, which is impossible. During a raid, he encounters Maestra. She recognises the eagle tattoo on his wrist from a crystal key her people found. She gives Finn the key as part of the ransom demand. Together with Sapient Gildas, blood-brother Keiro, and rescued slave Attia, they travel through Incarceron to find the exit.

While they journey toward a supposed exit, on the outside Claudia prepares for her inevitable wedding. Before they leave to the Palace, their guest and the Queen’s Chancellor Lord Evian reveals to her his allegiance to the Steel Wolves as well as a plot to assassinate the Queen. He attempts to enlist her aid, but she is hesitant. While she agrees with him to some degree, she doesn’t feel right about killing the Queen.

At the Palace, Claudia spends the little time she has looking for the entrance to Incarceron. She thinks she found it, but what she finds confuses her instead. She tries to reason with Finn that there is no way out, but events have only proven to them that an exit exists. Why else would there be attempts to thwart their every move? When they piece the clues together, the truth is revealed making their next move seem impossible. But it is. With no time left, Claudia must do the unthinkable. She must enter Incarceron.

My Thoughts

As with many of the books I’ve read lately, I found one of the sequels at a bookstore and was intrigued. Never the first one though. I’m not that lucky. Not that I’m complaining.

I really enjoyed the story. It’s unique and different and filled with lots if surprises. Something I really liked was that there was no magic involved. All the fantastical things were from science. I guess that makes this a sci-fi story then. Anyway. It’s a fascinating premise to take a futuristic world and revert it to hundreds of years prior to usurp the freedom of the people. It has clearly been very well developed and researched. I love how primal Incarceron actually is. The two worlds are like two complete opposites, but despite the reality that it’s a prison, there is more freedom inside then there is on the outside. A pretty accurate comparison that the grass isn’t always greener.

I like how different the characters are. Not just different from each other, but from the standard character archetypes. A part of me likes Claudia more than most heroines I’ve read. She isn’t driven by love, honour, or freedom, rather truth. She isn’t out to topple the government, just find the truth. She isn’t willing to sacrifice others to get it, or her honour, but she is willing to do what she has to. She is a bit selfish, but not beyond the realm of normalcy. She kind of feels like it is her duty. She also doesn’t want to be stuck with Caspar. It’s similar with Finn. He’s honourable and driven by the need to know who he is. He doesn’t justify his actions because of the terrible state in which he was raised. He is a great example of showing that you are responsible for your choices and deciding how you turn out. The secondary characters are a nice mix of randomness with some surprises thrown in to the mix. I’m still unsure who Attia is though. I hope that there is some more explanation to her in the next book.

To round it out, the book is well written. It is engaging and entertaining. It is not a complex read, which is ideal for the teenage target audience. The words are simple, yet not stupid simple. They won’t get bored or confused reading it. And thankfully, I didn’t catch any errors (which isn’t necessarily the writer’s fault).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It is a refreshingly different story not filled with magic or fantastical creatures. It is one I definitely recommend for you who like teen fantasy, yet are looking for something different. Enjoy 😉

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  1. […] Week 1 – Incarceron […]


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