Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Incarceron

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness. Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from Outside Incarceron. Very few prisoners believe that there is an Outside, however, which makes escape seems impossible.

And then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside- she is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, and doomed to an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know.

Incarceron is a story alternating between two points-of-view—one Outside and one Inside. The world outside the prison is known as the Era, and it’s something straight out of the 1700—1800’s. Women wear fancy dresses. Men wear suits with coattails. There’s even a monarchy, which live in a glass castle. It’s almost like a fairytale.

Claudia’s fed up with her father leaving her alone for months at their family estate. And she’s really tired of his elusiveness when she asks about her mother. But more than that—she wants to know what’s in his study. Could there be a secret door that leads to Incarceron? With the help of her Sapient teacher (mage-like people who are advanced in technology), she finds out what’s behind the door—a desk, a chair…and a Key.

Finn has always dreamed of seeing the Outside. And it doesn’t help that he’s had visions for as long as he can remember. A birthday cake with seven candles, a little girl with brown hair, family and friends gathered all around. These memories haunt him; he can’t remember anything before he was fifteen. That was two years ago. Now, Finn is battling to survive Inside. They call him the Starseer because he can see past Incarceron. With the help of Finn’s oathbrother, a Sapient, and a slave girl, Finn begins his quest to find the Outside. But not without a fight. Not only does the Scum get in his way, but so does the prison. See, Incarceron has a mind of its own. It can speak. It can think. It’s alive.

Nobody goes in. Nobody comes out.

That’s the rules.

But how can Finn have memories that he knows aren’t from Incarceron? And where did he get the eagle tattoo on his arm? It just doesn’t make sense. This is no place for birthday parties or wonderful memories. The place is dank, metallic and ready to kill whenever it wants.

During a trade between the Scum and another rival gang, Finn comes to possess a Key. He has no idea what its power is until the thing begins to glow.

And there’s a girl on the other side.

She claims Finn is the long-lost son of the king—the one who mysteriously died at the age of fifteen. The same age Finn became a “cell-born” (born within the prison). And the tattoo on his arm? The same eagle is on the Key. Finn knows he’s from the Outside and he’ll do anything to get there, even fighting the prison itself.

The book switches between Finn’s POV and Claudia’s. Catherine Fisher does a great job with both. And while the chapters start out longer in the beginning, they become smaller and smaller the closer Finn and Claudia are, which makes the tension that much better, IMO. The dual narration gives us a good balance between Outside and Inside.

If you are prepared to have your imagination stretched to its limits (and when you think it’s all over Catherine finds a portion of your imagination you didn’t know existed and distends it, too) then you need to READ THIS BOOK NOW.

Can't wait until the movie's released. :)

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