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Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ...

458 pages, Paperback

First published May 3, 2007

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About the author

Catherine Fisher

84 books1,571 followers
Catherine Fisher was born in Newport, Wales. She graduated from the University of Wales with a degree in English and a fascination for myth and history. She has worked in education and archaeology and as a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Glamorgan. She is a Fellow of the Welsh Academy.

Catherine is an acclaimed poet and novelist, regularly lecturing and giving readings to groups of all ages. She leads sessions for teachers and librarians and is an experienced broadcaster and adjudicator. She lives in Newport, Gwent.

Catherine has won many awards and much critical acclaim for her work. Her poetry has appeared in leading periodicals and anthologies and her volume Immrama won the WAC Young Writers' Prize. She won the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 1990.

Her first novel, The Conjuror's Game, was shortlisted for the Smarties Books prize and The Snow-Walker's Son for the W.H.Smith Award. Equally acclaimed is her quartet The Book of the Crow, a classic of fantasy fiction.

The Oracle, the first volume in the Oracle trilogy, blends Egyptian and Greek elements of magic and adventure and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children's Books prize. The trilogy was an international bestseller and has appeared in over twenty languages. The Candleman won the Welsh Books Council's Tir Na n'Og Prize and Catherine was also shortlisted for the remarkable Corbenic, a modern re-inventing of the Grail legend.

Her futuristic novel Incarceron was published to widespread praise in 2007, winning the Mythopoeic Society of America's Children's Fiction Award and selected by The Times as its Children's Book of the Year. The sequel, Sapphique, was published in September 2008.

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Profile Image for Cory.
Author 1 book399 followers
October 22, 2011
I know many of you are staring at my two star review with amazement. I imagine you're thinking, "Cory, how could you?! This is one of the greatest steam-punk novels ever written! How can you rate it without even finishing it?"

To that, I have a simple answer: I wasn't impressed.

This book, like many fantasy novels I've ignored for the past few years, follows the Hero's Journey like a bible.

Of course we have a mystery revolving around the hero's past. Of course the hero has to be of royal blood because having an actual peasant save the day is unheard of. Of course we must have two-dimensional characters, a romance that goes nowhere, and a villain that resembles a weak caricature of the Lady of the Green Kirtle in the Silver Chair.

Incarceron is filled with interesting ideas -- all of which come from a myriad of other places. I've never read The Maze Runner or The City of Ember, but they're both on my to-reads list. But you know how that goes. I have so many books on my to-reads list, they might not get read until next year.

Incarceron follows Claudia, the warden's daughter, and Finn, a prisoner of Incarceron. Claudia is set to marry Casper, son of the Queen. Casper is a one dimensional idiot who I doubt has all the luck with women that Fisher would have us believe. He reminds me somewhat of Ron Weasley. Maybe that's why I disliked him.

His mother, the Queen, is evil. Why she's evil, I don't know. That part is never explained.

The warden is also evil. I don't know why either. I guess because being evil is more fun? Emperor Palpatine certainly looks happy.

Anyway, we have a bunch of other characters like Jared. He's cool, but he only serves one purpose. He's Claudia's mentor. Too bad, because I thought him and Claudia could've had some chemistry. More than her and Finn anyway.

Have you read His Dark Materials? If so, you know what Pullman pulled in the second book. Yes, he pushed Lyra into the background for Will, the boring everyman. God, after he came into the series I was bored out of my mind. And Pullman has the nerve to call CS Lewis sexist.

Finn, like Will, is boring. Every time the story went back to him I kind of skimmed until it went back to Claudia. He had no personality. None.

The only interesting thing about Finn was his connection to Claudia. Of course the story has to revolve around him because apparently boys won't read books with girls as the main character, even though girls read more YA than boys.

Can we stop lying to ourselves? Please? Can we just make books to be books and quit trying to market to boys/girls/placebos? Stop throwing in bland heroes that no one cares about. Thank you.

But I digress. As we know, Claudia doesn't want to marry Casper because he's an idiot. Her solution: find the dead prince, Giles, because obviously, instead of killing him, the evil villains tossed him into a prison and wiped his memory. Okay. This is me: O_o

Moving on. Finn's side of the plot is so boring, I'm not even going to focus on it. Who cares? He's in an evil, dark world.

*cough*The Matrix*cough*Zion

Instead of boring you with a rant on how dumb and boring I think the entire prison is, I'm going to talk about Keiro.

Keiro is awesome. He saved Finn's POV from being utterly unreadable. I actually think him, Casper, and Claudia would make interesting love triangle material.

We have some other characters who's names I can't remember how to spell. Gildas, the mentor. Attilia, the slave girl with a crush on Finn. They're boring.

The world building itself was somewhat dumb. The world of Incarceron made no sense. I believe another reviewer said something about Australia not being a continent full of thieves and idiots. Of course it's an entirely different situation, but as I have not brushed up on my Australian history in quite a while, I will not speak on the matter.

Incarceron didn't know what it wanted to be. Sometimes it wanted to a Historical Romance, other times Science-Fiction, other times a Fantasy, other times Steampunk, and other times a Dystopian. Personally, I couldn't have cared less about the world building. It was poor.

Sapients. Okay. We made up a word. What do these people do that makes then any different from Caspers? *cough* I meant witches.

As for the writing? At times, it was confusing. I didn't have trouble following the plot, mainly because it was so simple, but I did have problems following the minor, irrelevant plotlines, probably because I didn't care. The pacing was off, way off, and this was 200 pages too thick. I won't be reading the sequel.

2.5 stars, because I appreciate the effort, but this just didn't do it for me. And trust me, I came into this book with a very open mind. I wanted to love it, but it failed me.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,119 followers
February 18, 2019
"Year by year Incarceron tightened its grip. It made a hell of what should have been Heaven."

Loved revisiting this world! I read this first when I was in my teens and I remember enjoying it wholeheartedly; years later and that opinion hasn't changed!

Claudia lives in a dystopian future, where there have been such advances in technology and science, but the leaders have chosen to keep the world frozen in history. They have chosen a medieval time period, and everything must be kept in 'era'.

Meanwhile, Finn lives in Incarceron. A vast and terrifying prison, where no one can escape, and the prison itself is growing, and learning, and destroying. The only person supposedly to have escaped is Sapphique; a legend with an entire belief system built around him.

I loved this world, it is unlike any I've come across before. It is clever, and believable. I found Claudia pretty damn irritating most of the time, but I loved Finn and his oathbrother Keiro, and their friend Attia.

Overall a solid old school YA :)
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.3k followers
June 21, 2010
I found it difficult to enjoy Incarceron at first.

You know that saying, Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Ya, this is Incarceron all over.

So there's two worlds in this one story. There's the "real" world and the Incarceron world.

The real world is a futuristic world with fantastical technologies - which are not used much because the King of that world decided that change was bad, progress - demeaning and invention - unsafe. So he reverted the whole world to a pre-regency era and forced everyone to act out his weird fantasy.

Okay, first of all, this worked SO well when China did it a few hundred years ago. Yeah. They really benefited from that one. Second of all, it's not like the pre-regency era was full of ecstatically happy people either. Sad to say but the idea was just dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Then you have the Incarceron world which is basically a giant prison where people from the "real" world sent their thieves, poor people and miscreants. Okay, first of all, once again, been there, done that! I live in Australia - okay. This idea is not new! Did it make England a happier place? No. Did it mean that Australia is some demented country full of criminals and wargangs that are bloodthirsty and ruthless? Okay, totally not going to answer that...

No, Australia is great. Wonderful place and we didn't have all the technology and resources they packed into this place. I mean, seriously. HOW COULD YOU FAIL?! They stuck us on this dry, barren continent with pretty much NOTHING. Did you know that in the entire fleet that landed in Australia to settle, there was not a single farmer? There was almost no trades people, or anybody who knew ANYTHING about livestock, working the land, mining or anything. And yet, behold our success. So I want to know how these morons fucked up so bad. Really, I do.

Okay, so other than these two stupid and ridiculous premises, Incarceron is actually a pretty great book. I thought at first that all the "big surprises" were painfully easy to grasp in the first 70 pages but I was wrong. I was so wrong. I stared open-mouthed at the end of the book muttering, "Well, flippity-doo-dah-day, you got me there, Fisher!"

Characters are pretty good. The two main characters and the big "romance" aren't really that great. They're kind of average and there IS no romance. The romance is a lie. It's nothing. But the other characters are pretty entertaining and interesting.

World building is unique and fun.

Not much else to say really. It was a good read, I enjoyed it. I'll read the next one because I want to know what happens. I wouldn't say I ABSOLUTELY loved it, but it was pretty good.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,851 followers
December 27, 2010
I finished this book last night but waited till this morning to review it. Had I not, I suspect that the review would have been a bit more...vitriolic.

I've run on several mediocre YA novels recently and that not only disappoints me, but gives me pause. maybe I'm getting harder to please?

Having just gone through the Percy Jackson series and found it disappointing and reading a book by Tamora Pierce which I found mostly stultifyingly dull, I was rooting for this one. Unfortunately it just didn't workout, at least for me. I'm a fantasy fan so, while the reality in this book requires some heavy duty suspension of belief, that's not in itself an insurmountable problem. The biggest problem(s) is/are in the story itself and the characters who populate it.

Most of the "people" here I just either couldn't care about, or I just didn't like. Finn wasn't too bad except for the failings everyone has here, but Claudia.... Claudia is petulant (yes I said petulant), willful, somewhat thoughtless and then when you roll all that up and make her thoughtlessness grow into either stupidity or foolishness it can be more than a person can bear. I know you don't ask for "reality" in a fantasy story, but there has to be a certain "reality" a form of logic within a book's own reality. Time and time again Claudia does things that had she really done them, the story would have ended early in some form of disaster for her and/or her tutor. Some times she makes an...lets be kind, an "unwise" decision, and it just sort of goes unnoticed or something, the ax never falls.

There are problems with the story telling itself also. Several times (for example) there is a tense situation, something is crashing or exploding and debris is falling all around, danger is everywhere. Or, possibly the characters are somewhere and enemies, guards etc. are closing in and something must be done! Or, their barricaded in a room and the battering ram is smashing down the door...we have to do something and do it NOW! And you'll get a line like this..."he/she stood staring off into the distance for several minutes, saying nothing". What?! Oh come on.

All in all the book escapes the one star rating as I've read worse, but I don't plan to follow the series. If you enjoyed the book I'm really happy for you, I really wanted to like the book, but it just left me cold and by a little over half way through I was simply skipping ahead... sorry.

Some of this it will be argued is simply "characteristics of a given character", but if the action continues throughout the book, thoughtless action after unwise decision it gets old, not endearing or cute or brave. I was just tired by books end. Maybe you won't see the book this way but I just didn't like it.

At this point, I have one more YA book, that I've been asked to read by someone, and then I think I may do some nonfiction only reading for a while and after that get to some of the books that I've been wanting to read for months or years that aren't for reading groups etc. The ones on my own shelves. Some adult level, non YA reading as it were. Maybe I'm just burned out.
May 27, 2021
”Only the man who has known freedom can define his prison”.

Incarceron es un libro super peculiar. Por una parte tenemos a Finn, un chico que ha estado toda su vida confinado en Incarceron, una cárcel absolutamente enorme, con mundos enteros y cientos de miles de personas en ella. Pero la cosa es que Finn no recuerda su infancia y, a pesar de eso, siempre ha creído que vino de afuera, que él no nació en esa cárcel. Por otra parte tenemos a Claudia, la hija del Guardián de Incarceron, que vive en un futuro distópico, pero en el que las personas en el poder han decidido ambientar todo como en la época medieval. Claudia está a punto de casarse con un príncipe absolutamente idiota y está haciendo todo lo posible para salirse de ese compromiso. Eventualmente, Claudia y Finn se conectan a través de unas llaves que van a hacer que todas sus perspectivas cambien y que ciertos secretos sobre identidades salgan a la luz.

La verdad es que leí este libro porque estoy haciendo un diplomado de traducción y fue, precisamente, mi profesora quien tradujo este libro. Era consciente de que Incarceron existía, pero en mi cabeza lo clasificaba como uno de esos “libros juveniles viejos que seguramente no me van a encantar porque no van a ser tan emocionantes como los actuales”. Y, de cierta manera, tenía razón. Si bien todo el setting de la prisión y del mundo exterior son súper interesantes, creo que le faltó más ritmo a la historia, todo sucedía demasiado lento para mi gusto.

Ahora, lo que debo confesar es que me gustaban muchísimo más los capítulos que narraba Claudia en el exterior a los que narraba Finn desde dentro de Incarceron, que se supone que debe ser el foco del libro. Irónico, ¿no? Siento que toda la dinámica de Finn con sus compañeros me recordaba un poco al grupo de Maze Runner y por eso me aburría un poco. En cambio, me fascinaba ver a Claudia moverse entre intrigas de la corte, investigar todo con su maestro, escabullirse en las narices de su padre, etc.

Sin nada de spoilers, puedo decirles que el final y la revelación de cierta identidad potencial son muy buenos. Sobre todo por las traiciones, los planes que salen a la luz y las reacciones ante los imprevistos. Vamos, que puede que el libro no me haya encantado, pero sí me queda esa espinita de curiosidad por ver cómo cierra toda la bilogía el siguiente: Sapphique .
Profile Image for Holly’s Mom.
271 reviews247 followers
December 18, 2010
Where to begin? I just loved this book so much. Reading it was like drinking a white chocolate mocha, oh so delicious.

Maybe I'm really weird, but I've always thought prisons were kind of...cool. Not the modern day kind, but the medieval types. Strange, maybe, but I just find dungeons really interesting. ANYWAY, Incarceron is the ULTIMATE prison. It's alive, and it has a perosonality, which is just so unbelievably awesome.

I must admit, the twists were very predictable, but I didn't mind, because the plot is so rich with fun and original things, from metal forests to flying ships, living, breathing storms, and interesting characters. The POV is switched mainly between Finn and Claudia, but also jumps to the secondary characters like Jared, Keiro, and Attia. I loved getting the different perspectives, especially since each of them has a very distinct personality, some so unlikable they became likable.

I guess you could say the book is pretty dark, what with chaining people up and treating them like dogs, but this darkness is overshadowed, because Finn is not alone; he has friends. At first, he questions whether or not his two companions actually care about him at all, thinking they're using him only as a means to escape the prison etc.., but over the course of the novel, as the characters grow,he realizes that they really are his friends--they may not be perfect, but they do care about him. What I can't stand is when a character has no friends. IMO, a book is only really too dark when the main character is alone. But Finn isn't alone, and there's always the hope of escape.

Action is on almost every page, and if not action, there's serious character interaction going on. Since it's hard to get a feel for how the characters really ARE on the inside, it was always so exciting hearing their conversations with each other and seeing how they helped each other in dangerous situations, because I could never be sure what was coming next, how they would react. The characters were unpredictable, but not inconsitent; they felt extremely real, and their emotions were raw. I could relate to each of them, despite their extreme differences.

Outside of the prison, we get somewhat of a breather from the non-stop intensity with Claudia, the prison warderns daughter. She wasn't unlikable, but I can't say I really loved her, either. She was real, though, which made me actually CARE what happened to her. She had good characteristics to balance out the bad ones, though. Her protectiveness of Jared, her tutor, was honest and kind of cute. I got the feeling Jared really LOVED her..LOVED her LOVED her. I know he's older than her and all, but what really annoys me is that Fisher never actually says how old he is. He could be anywhere from 20 to 40. She should have at least narrowed it down. Also, his disease? She should have explained that more, because it seems kind of random...unless it comes up in the next book. From where I stand, though, it seems kind of pointless, since the story doesn't really need anymore sadness.

The writing was smooth and not distracting...nothing remarkable, but good.

I was dragged in from the very first sentence, because I HAD to know what would happen next. Not only in relation to the plot, but in realtion to the characters. I kept thinking...Is he really as bad as he seems? Or, Is she really as nice as she seems? It was exciting...enthralling...intense...creative...and just really cool.

Plus, Fisher doesn't sugar coat things.
I've seen/read tons of characters who wake up with no memories whatsoever, and they usually act normal, just getting up and walking straight into life as if nothing is wrong. That always pissed me off. I mean...if I woke up with no memories at all?? I think I'd probably be at least a little creeped out, if not terrified. I'd be sad, at least. With Finn, finally, I get my realistic reaction. Waking up in a dark, dirty, prison cell with no memories...what do you do?? Cry yourself into a vomiting fit, yes. Get up and explore while humming a cheerful tune, no. So, thank you, Catherine Fisher, for making it realistic.

Also, if someone had their mind wiped, you'd think it would have some type of effect on their brain. With Finn, with each memory that tries to wriggle back into his mind, he suffers seizures, which ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE! OH MY GOD! Something realistic! Thank you SO MUCH.

Basically, I adore this book...I need to read it again asap.

My characters
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.6k followers
September 29, 2010
Abandoned at about page 90.

Reasons: general disinterest in the story, the fantasy world and the characters' fates; unappealing writing style; strong suspicions that Finn is the "dead" prince; painful flashbacks of The Maze Runner, Matrix, Robocop and some apocalyptic B-grade movies whose names I can't recall.

Lessons learned: science fantasy might not be my cup of tea.
November 18, 2011
Disclaimer: It was hard to convey my overall views on this book. I feel like this review is very much a 'I can't put my fingers on what was wrong' type of review, so I apologize if it seems rather chaotic.

Incarceron is a book with some interesting ideas, and some intensely visual imagery. Catherine Fisher put some imagination into crafting this story, and I tip my hat to the author for that. However, my overall feeling after finishing it is disappointment. Unfortunately, there were aspects that worked for me, but as a whole creation, I wasn't impressed.

One could argue that the disconnect might be due to having listened to this on audio, but I don't think that is the cause. I liked the narrator, and this would have been a more pleasant listening experience if everything had made more sense and tied together more fluidly.

My biggest issue: I felt that the ideas didn't come together coherently. I continued to listen, hoping that I would gain that clarity I was seeking. Sadly, further listening didn't correct this deficit, and I gained little to no further evolution in my understanding. Unfortunately, my interest level suffered as a result.

I never realized the author's end-goal here. I realize this is a series, but I am a big believer that books in a series should end in such a way that they are self-contained, even if one doesn't continue the series. I hate that emotional blackmail of a cliffhanger ending or feeling I need to 'read more' to get that total picture. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I think Fisher is a good writer when it comes to imagery and ideas. But the overall plotting and story-structure of this novel was weak, in my opinion. Perhaps I am being too harsh, but this is my overall perception. Expectations are a powerful thing. For me, at least, they can make or break a book. I found myself wanting more than I was getting from this story because of the interesting ideas stimulating my imagination to believe in its potential. That was an emotional failing for this book. On an analytical level, I felt as though my thought processes were pulled in too many directions, like a flow chart that goes all wonky and it never gets to the final destination. Instead, I was on a wild goose chase to find out the overall point of the story.

Other Things I Want to Touch On:
1)I really liked the concept of the self-aware prison that had developed its own ecosystem and many generations of inhabitants. The idea of the prison recycling its inhabitants and using inorganic components when necessary was rather twisted, but it makes sense. The prison(as a 'great experiment') microcosm does shine light on the inherent flaws of any so-called utopian ideal, which I believe is doomed to fail, due to the flawed aspects of human nature.
2)I liked the idea of the lost prince who finds himself living as a pauper, with a secret destiny that calls him to something bigger.
3)There are mystical aspects with the legendary Sapphique, who is the only person who has successfully escaped the prison. But I was left with a big question mark that felt like a set-up for the next book. As I said, that is a Major pet peeve of mine.
4)The concept that a futuristic group of peoples might reject the ideals of scientific progress and retreat to the classic/archaic modes of living--that gave me something to think about, and I felt it was pretty clever.
5)I loved Claudia's relationship with her teacher, Jared. Jared is probably one of my favorite characters, in fact. Their relationship was a substitute father/daughter bond teamed with a level of deep friendship and mutual respect. This was one of the most well-developed relationships in the book, and part of why I would give this book three stars rather than 2.75 stars, which I was leaning toward doing. On the downside, I wanted to know what his chronic illness was. That lack of explanation really nagged at me as I read about his symptoms/suffering.
6)I liked Attia a lot. She was feisty, resourceful, and loyal. She turned out to be a lot more complex character than I expected. I would have liked her as a romantic interest for someone, be it Finn, Keiro, or even Jared (since I get the feeling he's not that much older than Claudia. Maybe ten years or so).
5)Finn and Claudia were okay. I agree with my GRs friend Zeek in that they never really touched me. Claudia fell flat as a character, and Finn needed more fleshing out. I was okay with the romantic possibilities between them, but I probably needed more romantic tension if that was the author's goal to develop their relationship in this direction.
6)Keiro was annoying and unlikable for most of this book. The reveal about his anxieties and self-doubt didn't endear him to me, because it was came too late and too abruptly. His motivations didn't speak to me at all. He seemed like a shallow, self-serving bully who only cared about two things: 1) Himself and 2) Finn. I do think he cared about Finn, and that was his saving grace in my mind.

Overall, I can't really cheer for this book. It left me feeling rather flat and ambivalent, with an "If Only" feeling. Sometimes you want more than a book can deliver. Such was the case here.

Will I read the next book? I'm not in a hurry to do so. If it shows up at my library on audio, perhaps.

Profile Image for Amelia, free market Puritan.
349 reviews34 followers
June 16, 2010

If Incarceron was a school subject, it would definitely be science. I love science, I find it fascinating, but I’m not very good at it… kind of like this reading experience!
First of all, this book is fascinating, captivating, the type of story that sticks with you to the point that you’re forgetting everything else you have to do because you’re so obsessed over what happens next! But, on the other hand, it’s really confusing, and to be honest, I had a hard time digesting all the intricacies of the plot. I would respectfully point out that this book is way closer to “Science Fiction/Fantasy” than just regular Fantasy – be prepared for lots of technology and science.

Okay, so in a nutshell – how about I go ahead and set the stage for you, and maybe save your brain some racking? I have no idea if this is supposed to be Earth or if this is an entirely fictional universe, but whatever it is, it’s sometime in the future after a major war has taken place. Sounds pretty Dystopian 101, right? Well, this society decides to halt progress of any kind (technological, mostly) and return to a simpler way of life; thus the society is 18th century based, with some contraband technology thrown in (sidenote: I really, really do love this concept! I love the blending of the old with the new! COOL!) Meanwhile, the powers that be created Incarceron – an experimental “prison” that they populated with criminals, political prisoners, and all other kinds of undesirables… (I say "prison" because it's not the bars-and-cells kind that you see in Man in the Iron Mask or Count of Monte Cristo...it's more like a hellish society) One of these prisoners, a 17-year-old boy named Finn, truly believes that he does not belong in Incarceron: he is convinced that he came from Outside. When he finds a Key that allows him to communicate with a girl on the outside, Finn launches a desperate escape plot all the while attempting to unravel the secrets of his past.

From page 1, Incarceron hits the ground running! I can definitely say that there are no dull points in this riveting, action-packed story. I think, though, that the fast-paced action comes at the expense of character and story development. There’s so much action in this story, but it seems like you learn things in fragments. But hey, this book is incredibly fast-paced and so you don’t stay in the dark for long. :D

I really liked the two main characters, Finn and Claudia, and I thought that their respective storylines were pretty interesting. I loved seeing their separate lives start to blend and was definitely cheering for them the whole way! As usual, I’m divided on the supporting characters. Because there’s so much action in this 400+ book, characterization seemed to take a backseat. That’s not to say that characters weren’t developed; they just didn’t really seem explored. Incarceron seems like a very psychological novel, and I honestly could have done with more in-depth character exploration. And Finn and Keiro’s weird, warped relationship confused me – Keiro was just aggravating through and through.
So to summarize: VERY GOOD characters – they’re all interesting and useful to the plot (no “filler” characters, in other words)…SOMEWHAT LACKING on how these characters are explored and their emotional development.

Final Rating: 4.3 – in between my 4-and-4.5 star rating. I know, I can’t make up my mind! Incarceron is an awesome plot with great characters, but it could have been better explained and explored.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
How many different forms of imprisonment are there? How irrevocable are they? What does living in that kind of prison do?

I admire Incarceron for trying something that felt a bit new, and I generally enjoyed the story. I'm not sure I'd go back to reread it, though, so that's my personal line for a four-star book. But although this is a three-star review, it's worth checking out.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for R.J..
Author 14 books1,425 followers
November 14, 2008
I love this book with a mad passion. I could hardly even tell you why, except that the concept of the living and sentient prison that's a whole world in itself is amazing, and the blend of the fantastical/fairy tale/historical and the high-tech aspects of Claudia's world fascinated me, and the Warden reminds me of Jack Bristow from Alias with his grim aspect and habit of keeping dark secrets mingled with a fierce (if sometimes oddly expressed) love of his daughter, and Jared is GUH and Jared/Claudia makes me all kinds of happy even though it's only lightly implied and I have no guarantee it's going to go that way.

Boy, that was an incoherent review. But you get the idea.
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
695 reviews275 followers
March 24, 2016
Αυτός ο κόσμος μου άρεσε πολύ. Όλοι οι ήρωες, μαζί και οι δευτερεύοντες, μου φάνηκαν πολύ ενδιαφέροντες και καλοφτιαγμένοι, μου άρεσαν. Αυτό όμως που με ενθουσίασε ήταν ο κόσμος, τον βρήκα πολύ πρωτότυπο και φυσικά πρώτη φορά διάβασα σε ένα βιβλίο να έχουν ενσωματώσει τόσο πολύ, τη steampunk κουλτούρα την οποία λατρεύω. Τέλος, διάβασα πολλές κριτικές που το βρήκαν βαρετό και "μια από τα ίδια" δεν έχω ιδέα γιατί, είχε δράση πάρα πολύ περιπέτεια και μια φοβερή, φυλακή με νοημοσύνη που δεν έχει σκοπό να αφήσει τους φυλακισμένους της να αποδράσουν! Πολύ καλό.
Profile Image for Agresif Spoiler Kraliçesi .
725 reviews74 followers
February 8, 2019
Seriyi bitirdim ve kısa bir not düşeyim istedim:askin a si yok bu kitap icin bence gerek yoktu zaten ama bilerek ask beklemeden okuyun😉bilimkurgu agirlikli bir distopya,biraz fantastik öğeler de var biraz saray entrikalarıda...bilimkurgu ve distopya sevmiyorsanız delisacmasi gelebilir tavsiye etmiyorum ama benim gibi seviyorsanız sonu çok doyurucu olmasada okuyun derim.
4,5 tan 5...kararsızım 4de de inebilir...waww çok harika ,mükemmel diyemiyorum ama ben cok sevdim.ilginç ve yaratıcıydi , sıkılmadan heyecanla okudum.kitap akıcı en büyük sorun final biraz oldu bittiye gelmiş gibiydi.bazi şeyler kafama oturmadı ama belki cevaplar ikinci kitaptadır...
May 9, 2017
I'm finished. Done. Turned the last page.

And I'm so glad.

What a royal waste of time it would have been better spent sleeping cos yup this book was as boring as watching paint dry lol.

For a long time I've been excited about the premise of this book and ordered it from my library being very excited to read it. While it did start off promising with the promise of shocking revelations to come, the book soon went down and by the end it fell flat on its face.

Okay the characters. Finn had so much potential in him to become an epic hero but the way the author described him made him as bland as porridge with no sweet additive. I also felt that we didn't see enough of him, that his asshole "oathbrother" Kiero stole nearly all the light plus the revelation about him hardly registered at all as his character was so dull. The other main character Claudia. While she was still a cardboard cutout like everyone else, it did feel like she had a little more spark to her. But her story and situations were so boring I could see many ways in which they ould have been made more exciting.

All the revelations when they came, while I wasn't expecting them, they were delivered in an unremarkable way . So for me, I felt that hardly anything happened in this book and I had long since lost interest in it and perhaps people who like really slow going mysteries would like this? But is was a huge letdown for me.

Profile Image for Trin.
1,847 reviews567 followers
May 13, 2016
Basically, it's Escape From New York, except with fantasy instead of post-apocalyptic trappings. The characters are stock, and the action is propelled along by a lack of information and dull action setpieces that transpire without any real sense of excitement or danger. I never got a visceral—or even bare-bones visual—sense of what the living/mechanical/whatever prison of Incarceron is supposed to be like. And, as with far too many YA/fantasy/sci-fi/action/adventure books I've struggled through, it takes itself far, far too seriously—there's not a single joke in the whole 400-page slog.

Wait, that's not true: I found it pretty funny that Fisher expected me to believe that the great legendary hero of Incarceron is called Sapphique. That's not a hero's name, it's a Vegas revue. "Now playing at the Bellagio—Cirque de Soleil's Sapphique!"
Profile Image for Colleen Houck.
Author 40 books8,990 followers
December 7, 2015
I really like the idea of a sentient prison. The mystery of Claudia and her relationship with her father is something my mind worked on through the entire book. Claudia's tutor was my favorite character.
Profile Image for Luz Balthasaar.
87 reviews56 followers
December 25, 2011
Selesai baca ini, saia speechless.

Tapi ini bukan jenis speechless "ZOMG its So COoLZ LIke Tah Best ThinG EVAARRRR!!!" yang saia harapkan. Ini lebih seperti jenis speechless yang, "Idenya keren banget... tapi kok ide sekeren itu cuma jadi kayak... gini? O_O

Betapa saia benci jika ide yang seharusnya pure awesome dieksekusi menjadi sesuatu yang gak awesome.

Bayangin deh. Idenya tentang sebuah penjara yang hidup, yang merupakan dunia/ekosistem tersendiri. Gilanya lagi, ekosistem penjara ini punya kesadaran dan kepribadian kayak manusia, yang memungkinkan dia mengatur diri sendiri dan mengawasi semua hal yang terjadi di dalam tubuhnya.

Sebagai contoh, Incarceron bisa mengubah keadaan tubuhnya sendiri dengan menciptakan fenomena alam seperti gempa dan badai, yang bergerak sesuai kehendaknya. Tapi contoh yang paling keren adalah bahwa Incarceron bisa mendaur makhluk-makhluk mati di dalamnya menjadi makhluk hidup baru. Konsepnya mirip sama daur kehidupan di pelajaran biologi SMU, tapi jauh lebih keren. Misalnya dengan memasukkan faktor bahwa bahan organik itu ternyata menjadi semakin sedikit dari masa ke masa. Akibatnya bermunculanlah makhluk-makhluk campuran seperti domba berkaki sirkuit plastik, pohon-pohon berdaun logam, dan manusia-manusia yang badannya ditambal mesin.

Awesome? Hell Yeah.

Di dalam ekosistem itu, manusia-manusia hidup dalam kegelapan dan kebusukan. Banyak di antaranya pasrah pada keadaan. Tapi beberapa dari mereka berusaha untuk meninggalkan Incarceron.

Pertama adalah Finn, tokoh utama amnesia yang "Spesial" karena sering mengalami flashback tentang hal-hal yang tidak ada di Incarceron--hal-hal yang seharusnya datang dari dunia Luar. Dia percaya kalau dia berasal dari dunia Luar dan karenanya berusaha untuk kembali ke sana.

Kedua, Keiro, saudara angkat Finn yang digambarin ganteng necis tapi tingkah lakunya culas. Begitu baca namanya saia memerhatikan satu hal. Nama Finn berasal dari bahasa Irlandia Fionn, yang artinya "terang" atau "putih." Sementara Keiro berasal dari "Keir", yang kalau saia ga salah berarti "hitam" atau "gelap."

Eh. Baiklah. Pantesan aja tokoh ini dibikin 'jahat' sementara Finn 'baik'.

Lalu ada Gildas si Sapient tua. Dia pengen keluar karena terobsesi sama Legenda Sapphique, yang bercerita tentang satu-satunya orang yang pernah keluar dari Incarceron.

Dan yang terakhir, Attia. Agak sop iler (spoiler maksudnya, tapi 'kan saia pemakai bahasa Indonesia yang Baik dan benar,) kalau saia cerita siapa dia. Jadi yaaa... katakan saja dia ngikutin Finn karena merasa utang budi.

Sementara itu, di Dunia di luar Incarceron, ada Claudia. Dia anak dari sipir Incarceron, yang mau mengeluarkan Finn karena suatu sebab--yang benernya demi keuntungan dia juga. Sekalipun dia berada di dunia Luar yang 'bebas', dia sebenarnya terikat dalam penjara jenis lain: penjara politik, protokol, dan tata dunia ala Inggris jaman Ratu Victoria di mana kemajuan dilarang. Kalau dia membebaskan Finn, dia bisa bebas dari penjara tak kasatmata ini.

Yang satu di dalam, yang lain di luar. Tapi keduanya sama-sama terpenjara.

Awesome Tagline? Hell Yeaaaaah!!!

Tapi sayangnya, awesome-nya cuma sampai disini. T_T

Baca sekian ratus halaman pertama, saia benar-benar harus memusatkan perhatian. Gaya bahasa Mbak Fisher bukan gaya yang saia sebut gaya bahasa Tour Guide. Ini bukan gaya yang pas dibaca menuntun kita ke dalam dunia yang ingin dia sampaikan. No. Ini gaya bahasa Profesor, dimana kita harus konsentrasi penuh untuk paham dia sebetulnya ngomong apa.

Saia baca yang edisi terjemahan, dan saia kira masalahnya bukan pada penerjemah. Masalah utamanya ada di si pengarang. Gaya bahasa Mbak Fisher ini kayaknya sulit, dan itu diperparah dengan segala macam detail yang bikin perhatian saia meleng dari apa yang sebenernya tengah terjadi, dari hal utama yang ingin dia sampaikan.

Dah gitu karakter-karakternya ga ada yang beneran nancep di saia. Mereka ga jelek, tapi nggak berkesan aja. Ketutupan sama karakter Incarceron, si penjara itu sendiri. Yang, nyebelinnya, baru kelihatan jelas di bagian akhir, ketika dia mulai bicara.

Ada satu plot twist yang keren: ketika Jared (guru Claudia) nyadar Incarceron itu sebenarnya di mana. Tapi konsep mengenai di mana Incarceron terletak itu... gimana yah? Bermasalah.

Pertama adalah karena untuk memercayainya agak-agak butuh Suspension of Disbelief. Soalnya penjelasan yang dipakai adalah teknologi, bukan sihir. Tapi cara kerja portal menuju Incarceron dan cara kerja kunci Incarceron sendiri itu kayak sihir. Cukup berdiri di teleporter dan... Ka-POW!!! Anda pindah.

Dan mumpung kita sudah ngomongin cara keluar dari Incarceron... ternyata caranya CUMA BEGITU?

*Ngambil gergaji mesin untuk KILL protagonis bego*

Masalah kedua saia gini. Konsep Incarceron mengenai penjara yang hidup itu baru. Tapi konsep di_mana_dia_terletak sendiri nggak baru.

Pendek kata, saia gak kaget. *Poker Face*

Mulai dari sini adalah rant penuh Sop Iler saia tentang kenapa worldbuilding Incarceron runtuh. Read at your own risk.

Akhirnya saia ngasi 3 bintang. Bukan karena ini cerita enjoyable yang memiliki kekurangan, tapi karena Incarceron adalah ide bintang 5 yang dieksekusi dengan teknik bintang 2 dan ditaruh di dalam worldbuilding bintang 2 (5 + 2 + 2)/3 = 3. Sial. Sial Sial Sial.

Saia ga tahu apakah saia mau membaca Sapphique atau tidak...
Profile Image for Megan.
418 reviews386 followers
November 12, 2010
Sadly, I was unable to really get into Incarceron, let alone finish it. (Gave up on page 221) The main problem with the story was believability. Incarceron is a self-sustaining prison experiment that is in a secret location and sealed off from the rest of the world. Presumably the prison holds the normal thugs, rapists and thieves. But it also holds political dissenters and volunteers. Volunteers to…. Well this, like many other things, was never actually explained. The idea is interesting, but I have a hard time accepting the fact that any society would put so much effort into a prison if those sent to it are never meant to be released to normal society again. I mean, why not just kill them? Or ship them off to an island? What is the purpose of the experiment and why is it necessary for regular citizens to volunteer to enter Incarceron as well? Granted, the story is built on mystery but really crazy ideas have to have a grain of possibility to be enjoyable, and this one just never sold me on the idea.

Regarding the mystery, neither the characters nor the reader fully knew what was going on. But at some point, something’s gotta give. Many reviews praise this novel for being so intense. Which, indeed it is. It is comprised of very short segments alternating between Finn’s gritty Incarceron existence and Claudia’s privileged life filled with spies, lies and fake pleasantries. Both Finn and Claudia happen to be experiencing an incredibly tumultuous time and that does make for powerful reading. Sort of like literary caffeine. However, behind all of the thrilling passages, there wasn’t much substance to support the story.

Finally, I was not captivated by Claudia or Finn. Both of them are good people caught up in a bad circumstance. Both of them have the inner fortitude and strength to stand up for what is good and do the right thing… *yawn*. Aside from their intentions we never really learn who they are as people, and I had a hard time giving a crap about either one of them.

So.... unbelievable plot + underdeveloped characters + mystery for the sake of mystery = a book I'm not gonna finish. Sorry.
Profile Image for Siv30.
2,388 reviews127 followers
June 24, 2017
אינקרסרון הוא עולם הכלא שאליו נשלחו לפני אלפי שנים הפושעים והעניים כדי לנקות את העולם מתחלואיו ולאפשר לאוכלוסיה הזו להקים עולם מקביל טוב יותר. הוא תוכנן במימד זמן אחר, כך שלא יהיה ניתן לצאת ממנו ואליו נשלחו 70 ספייאנטי - מורים חכמים, מדענים- שיסייעו לחנך וללמד את האוכלוסיה כך שהמקום יהפוך לגן עדן. אבל אלפי שנים דירדרו את האוכלוסיה והכלא , ישות תבונית ולומדת בעצמה, הפך לגיהנום ממנום מבקשים 4 אנשים לברוח: פין הרואה בכוכבים, בעל חזיונות שאין לאו עבר אבל הוא זוכר עולם אחר עם ריחות אחרים. קיירו ילד של הכלא שנולד בכלא וגדל בו כדי להצטרף לחבורת שודדים רוצחים. אטיאה, שהיתה כלבת אדם של מנהיג החבורה ואטיאס הספיינט הזקן.

רק אדם אחד הצליח לצאת מהכלא - סאפיק והוא לא חזר להציל את האנשים בעולם הכלא. הסיפורים עליו הן אגדות שבעקבותיהן החבורה הולכת.

החבורה, מוצאת מפתח בדולח מיוחד בזכות פשיטה שערכו על קבוצת אזרחים. המפתח מאפשר להם לתקשר עם בתו של הסוהר, קלאודיה, שנועדה להינשא לנסיך הכתר הנעלם, ג'יילס ולאחר שמת לאחיו קספר. קלאודיה חייה בעולם בחוץ, עולם שתקוע במאה ה - 17 ובו אסורה טכנולוגיה כי קיימים כללי התקופה הנאכפים ע"י שושלת הבראנה.

מהרגע שקלאודיה רואה את פין, היא מאמינה שהוא הנסיך האבוד והיא מנסה להציל אותו בכל דרך. היא כלואה בתוך המוסכמות החברתיות והכללים המצופים ממנה והיא עושה מאמץ לשבור אותם. היא נעזרת בג'רארד הספייאנט האישי שלה כדי לפענח את צפונות המפתח ולנסות לאתר את הדרך להציל את פין.

במסע מסתברים גילויים מרעישים על הכלא, על ישותו שהתפתחה עם השנים. על קלאודיה ומוצאה ועל חברות ונאמנות.
הספר מתחיל איטי עם תמונות מחייו של פין בקבוצת השודדים הרוצחים ומתקדם במקביל בהכנות לחתונה של קלאודיה עם קספר ועם המסע של חבורתו של פין. תככים מזימות, ואירוע רודף אירוע עד שלקראת סוף הספר הקצב ממש עוצר נשימה.
ספר פנטזיה מצויין על הכלא שבעולם הזה והכלא בעולם החדש שנברא ומסתבר שאנחנו אף פעם לא יכולים באמת לברוח מהכלא של האנושות.
כתיבה משובחת בעולם שבנתה הסופרת בצורה מושלמת.
Profile Image for Gabyal.
502 reviews7 followers
September 2, 2023
Por donde empezaré?? Tiene buenas ideas, la premisa es buena tmb perooooo y ahi esta el asunto de todo el libro en el pero... y es una lástima porque pensé que estaría bien el libro y va a ser que no tristemente... Se le fueron las cabras a la autora y de una idea buena la hizo mala, le falta explicación, le falta un poco (o un mucho dependiendo de donde lo agarre) de congruencia, la construcción del mundo (la dichosa cárcel) fue pobre, la escritura fluida y fácil pero a veces se le hacía bolas en engrudo y se hacía confusa.
De todos los personajes ninguno me hizo mucha gracia no empatice con ellos, con Jared puede que un poco y Keiro pero de ahí en fuera caput todos. Finn no es malo pero le falta algo, Claudia se vuelve odiosa y petulante. Total que les falta fuerza, Jared y el Guardián que pudo sacarles mucho mas jugo los dejó a medias ay que pena la vdd.
Me gusta la fantasía creo que ya muchos lo saben pero con este libro nomás no terminé de congeniar y me pudo la verdad.

Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books489 followers
November 10, 2012
Reviewed by Amber Gibson for TeensReadToo.com

Above all, Time is forbidden. From now on nothing will change.

After the Years of Rage, King Endor's Decree bans progress, pausing the world in an old-fashioned era of medieval dress and travel by horse-drawn carriage. Though advanced technology exists, it is expressly forbidden, and everyone must abide to Protocol.

Incarceron is an exception to this rule. A prison that some are born into and that nobody ever escapes, Incarceron is not a building, but an entire underground network of cities and wilderness entrapping prisoners in its vastness. Most prisoners have never seen the Outside and can only imagine what the stars and sky might be like. Surely more spectacular than Incarceron's Lightson and Lightsoff.

Finn believes that he came from Outside. Though he cannot remember a previous life, his mysterious seizures and visions hint that he was not always an Incarceron captive. When he discovers a mystical crystal key through a tragic turn of events, he just knows that the key will lead them to Escape from the treacherous clutches of Incarceron once and for all.

A duplicate of the key that Finn found belongs to the Warden of Incarceron. He lives on the Outside and is thrilled that his daughter, Claudia, is about to wed Caspar, heir to the throne. After years of scheming and social climbing, he will finally have the power that he craves.

Claudia, while groomed since birth to be a queen, is not merely her father's puppet. With a mind of her own, and no intention to marry the arrogant Caspar, Claudia pines for the one to whom she was first betrothed - Giles. Giles was the prince and heir to the throne before his unexpected death while riding alone. An investigation was never officially undertaken, but Claudia has always suspected that the new queen, Sia, played a role in Giles' death so that her son, Caspar, could ascend to the throne.

Refusing to be pawns in a royal power struggle, both Claudia and Finn are determined to uncover Incarceron's secrets. What they don't count on, though, is that Incarceron is not just a prison. Incarceron is alive.

Catherine Fisher creates a fantasy world unlike any other, playing upon classic themes of courage, justice, and truth to weave a page-turning adventure tale. INCARCERON reminds me strongly of Orwell's 1984 with a fantastical twist. Fisher's plot twists are clever and her ambiguous ending leaves the reader craving more. Look for the sequel, SAPPHIQUE, soon.
Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 4 books872 followers
February 10, 2011
This prison is alive.

That pretty much sums up Incarceron's selling point. It's probably even a better marketing line than the book's actual hook, "a prison like no other"—which could really mean just about anything, from a prison made of pineapples and everything-bagels to a prison in which the cells are made of popular song lyrics to a prison that is an exact replica of the First Continental Congress. At least with "This prison is alive," you have a pretty good idea of what's special about the book and why you'll want to read it.

It's a really cool idea and the prison Catherine Fischer builds in her story is worth exploring.

It's just too bad the rest of the story isn't as awesome as the premise of a prison that is basically a person. Her characters are those we've met a thousand times before and they act in all the silly ways that we've come to expect from paper-thin caricatures. They even come with prepackaged sci-fi names like Finn and Keiro and Sapphique. (Sapphique?) All the novel's surprises are telegraphed in such a way that the reader wonders why Fischer even bothered making them surprises, as if she included them reluctantly, having heard somewhere that stories required twists and turns but all the while thought better of it.

It's not that Incarceron is particularly bad. It's more just a matter of being too pedestrian, too common. This prison is alive is a concept so full of life and possibility and I wish so much that it had a great book to go along with it. Fischer will occasionally prompt interesting questions, speculating on the nature of the human beast and the purpose and power of the human institution, but those moments of interest would do better being shored up by a more powerful author.

Maybe for her next book, she can accumulate all her interesting ideas and then sell them to someone with a better talent for literature.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,809 reviews801 followers
September 8, 2016
Although I found this book a bit slow to start, I did end up thoroughly enjoying it! I thought the world building was truly great and loved the world that the author created. And the concept of the prison being alive really intrigued me as I haven't read anything quite like it before. I also very much enjoyed that it was a fantasy/steam punk novel, I rarely come across them and I do so enjoy them! The story took many twists and turns and kept me guessing as to what would happen next. And then the ending was totally not what I had expected and it's left my dying to pick up the sequel!
Profile Image for Bry.
635 reviews95 followers
August 13, 2010
Wow this book is one hell of a ride. Non stop intensity, suspense, and action. Frankly, not only is it a great book it would be an awesome movie. This craziness made for a great twisted plot but did leave a bit to be desired when it came to characterization.

This book is about a melding of 2 worlds. Finn from the prison Incarceron, and Claudia from 'Outside' who also happens to be the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron come into contact through a communication device in the shape of a crystal key. Each are running from something - Finn from the horrors of the prison and Claudia from the horrors of an arranged marriage.

This merging of their two worlds revolved around royal assassinations, political intrigues, and historical cover ups. It was all really fascinating and I a pretty unique resolution to their society's issues.

The 2 main characters were OK I guess but not my favorites. Finn was overly whiny considering how long he had lived in the prison but he had good morals. Claudia was supposed to have 2 sides to her, her fake side whenever her father is present which is stuffy, snobby, and proper. Her other side when he is gone is supposed to be more carefree, sweet, and good natured, but this was proven not true when she left for her wedding and most of the staff was basically happy to see her and her snobbiness go.

The secondary characters provided a lot more insight into the story that Finn and Claudia - namely Kiero, Jared, and the Warden. They each showed a different side to society and the effects of upbringing and environment. I spent more of the book agonizing over whether or not both Kiero and the Warden were really bad or not!

All in all a fantastic book that I highly recommend. I totally can't wait for the sequel Sapphique to come out in December!
Profile Image for Lisa.
109 reviews
August 15, 2011
I wish I could give half-stars, because this is really 3 1/2.

I thought the ideas in this book were rich and innovative, and the plot twists near the end were what made me round the rating up to 4 stars instead of rounding down. I definitely want to read the sequel to find out where this story goes. (Update: I recently moved my rating down to 3 stars because as time has gone by I stopped caring about reading the sequel! Just didn't resonate with me, I guess.)

The big negative for me was that this author loves trying to make her writing sound pretty, and in doing that she leaves too many details out to the point where I was like, "What the heck is going on?" Especially in a fantasy where everything is made-up, I could have used a little more meat and potatoes in the descriptions (and that's coming from a "less descriptions, more dialogue" sort of girl). Also, this author apparently likes to write poetry, which makes sense because there are some parts that are cheesier than my kid's dairy drawer in the fridge. Not that the plot itself is cheesy, just the way she structures her sentences.

Oh, and she is a heavy user of the "B" word. Maybe that's not considered a bad word in England? 'Cause I think this author's British.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Ross.
142 reviews20 followers
July 27, 2020
"Only the man who knows freedom can define his prison."

Do you know those blurbs that sound really interesting and make you really curious about a story, just for you to end up disappointed when you actually read the story itself? That's Incarceron's blurb. And yes, I've already find blurbs more interesting than this one, but still. It was intriguing and I was curious to read the story. But then I read it and I wish I hadn't.

Let's start with the plot. It is so freaking dull I am surprised I didn't fall asleep. Finn's parts (being Finn a prisoner of Incarceron, a giant prison that is alive and whose location is known only by the Warden) should have been full of action and really interesting to read, because after all they are trying to survive in a place full of thieves and assassins where there's no rules, but the action that actually exists is definitely not enough to catch my attention for more than a few pages (and by few I mean one, two pages). And then we have Claudia's parts (being Claudia a lady from the the real world where development was forbidden and everyone lives like they were still in the XVI century). It seemed to be promissing me some political trama to make up for the lack of action, but I didn't get any! So it was basically me reading about a spoiled girl who doesn't want to marry and therefore creates an overcomplicated plan that makes no sense at all.

Which leads me to the fact that this plot has more holes than a Swees cheese. Claudia's overcomplicated plan, for example. Close your eyes and imagine that you are a lady in the XVI century, meant to marry the future king, and you don't want to. What do you do? A) Run away. B) Try to find a reasonable way of getting off the marriage. C) Waste all the time you have to prepare yourself for option A) or B) trying to find a way to prove to the world that the dead Heir Prince is alive, even if you have no proof of that and everyone believes he is dead. Guess which option she chose? If you said option C) you are 100% freaking right. Now tell me, who in his/her right mind would try to do something like that?! I mean, c'mon. You may hope he is alive and want to try to find him, but at least have some sort of plan B) just in case you can't find anything. But oh, wait! This is fiction, so of course Claudia's unreliable and overcomplicated plan will work.

Then we have the whole thing of the Heir Prince being alive. Because the Queen wants him gone, so her own son can get the crown, but instead of killing him, she sends him to Incarceron, even if she is clearly fine with killing people. Okay, right. It obviously makes sense. But then again, it is fiction and if the Prince had been killed, Fisher would have no plot to work with, so of course he needed to go to Incarceron. 🙄

And you don't need to be a genius to guess who our Heir Prince is, do you? Yes, it is that obvious. And was obvious since the moment the whole dead/disappeared Heir Prince thing is mentioned. To be fair, though, Fisher made no effort to hide that fact, so I really don't know if she wanted the revelation to be a twist or not. What I do know is that it made me even more irritated with the plot.

But then, I reached the end of the book. And was completly blown away by a series of unpredictable plot twists, that caught me completly off guard, because I really didn't think Fisher would be able to surprise me, and made me not only love the end but want the next book. WHY DO AUTHORD NEED TO MAKE BOOKS LIKE THIS?! I mean, WHY? Why can't I have an amazing book from the beginning till the end, so I can finish it and say without doubts that I want the next one? Why making me end it with this bittersweet feeling, wanting the next book, but fearing that it might be as dull as the first?!

If only being dull was the only problem of the story! But it isn't. The characters are terrible. Flat and one dimensional. Claudia got in my nerves as I don't remember any character to do. Stupid little spoiled brat! I mean, she doesn't even really care about Finn, she only wants a way to get away from that stupid marriage. She is a spoiled girl throwing a tantrum. Period. Finn is well... I don't know. I can't even remember what he is supposed to look like. Personality traits? That I can remember, none either. All I can say is that in that dark world of Incarceron, he is the special guy. And it's basically that. Then we have sidekicks/friends that somehow could receive even less development than Claudia and Finn did. I can't even remember their names, sorry. The Queen and Claudia's father are evil. Because we need evil characters. And that's everything they are. It seems that being evil is a full-time personality trait and it's enough to describe a character... 🤷‍♀️

The only character I could actually like is a sidekick and somehow (and luckly) escaped from that group I referred and that got even less development than Claudia and Finn. He is Finn's best friend/brother-in-arms. The only character that actually got some personality traits I can remember. He is charismatic, cocky and a little crazy. Truth be told, I have a thing for this kind of characters, but still. It is hard for you to do not like Keiro when he is the only character with a personality.

Sadly, not even the world can escape my rant. I loved the idea. 100% loved it. Fine, whoever thought it would actually work was stupid beyond belief. It's not like the XVI century was a bed of roses where everyone was happy all the time. And of course no one can ever create a paradise, fill it with people and expect it to remain a paradise. People are not perfect and do not fit in a perfect world. But hell, the damn idea was amazing! I loved it and I don't mind to keep saying that. And I have nothing bad to say about Incarceron. It is just perfect. The whole live prison idea as well as its completly original location are absolutely amazing. But the real world part could have been so much better executed. It left me so many questions. I mean, technology is not allowed but the whole Warden's house is filled with it, to make sure everything looks like they live in a XVI century house. The Queen has a freaking elevator. And new things keep being created, even if they can't be used. I get the idea of Fisher wanting us to see that the idea of that idiot doesn't work at all and that humans can't live without technology nowadays. But my mind can't add all those rules broken by the ones who should want them to be followed and the world Fisher wanted to create. It just made me so confused during almost the whole book that I couldn't really appreciate the world as much as I wanted to.

Overall, I can't actually see why so many people like this book. I won't deny that the world is genial, it definitely is, but the actual story is definitely not that good. I can't really say that I recommed this book, even though I LOVED those plot twists at the end, which makes me quite sad. And honestly, despite having it in my TBR list, I don't really know if I am going to give the next book a try. I am too scared of getting disappointed.

"Despair is deep. An abyss that shallows dreams."

SCORE: 1.75 out of 5.00 stars

You can also find this review on my blog
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,005 followers
March 15, 2013
Original Review HERE

Incarceron is a vast, encompassing prison. Instead of steel bars and cell blocks, however, Incarceron is a world in itself; it is a metal world where nothing is created nor wasted, where stars and sky are near forgotten fairy tales, where all live in a cutthroat world, fighting for food and survival. Even more than that, Incarceron is alive – it observes everything that goes on within its walls, it’s red seeing eye omnipresent to the mortals within. Incarceron is all they have ever known – although there is a myth about one man, a prophet named Sapphique, that was the only one able to escape to the mysterious outside.

Finn is a child of Incarceron, remembering only when he woke up in a dark, squalid cell two years ago, mad with fear and lost memories. Now seventeen, Finn has been forced by circumstance to join a crew of “Scum” – that is, ruthless thieves and bandits, that call themselves the Comitatus. One day, Finn makes a shocking discovery – a crystal key, whose design matches the tattoo on Finn’s wrist. The key, which Finn and those around him believe could be the way out of Incarceron, also turns out to be a communication device, and Finn finds himself able to speak to a mysterious girl, named Claudia.

On the outside of Incarceron, Claudia is the daughter of the Incarceron’s Warden, and set to marry the prince of the realm. Frustrated with her bleak future and the cutthroat political games in which she finds herself ensnared, Claudia is determined to prove that the monarchy is corrupt, and to find a way to instigate change in the static, innovation-fearing kingdom – and the way she plans to do this, is to discover Incarceron’s secrets. When she finds a crystal key in her father’s study, she finds a link to a world that is nothing like the ideal utopia that Incarceron was supposed to be – and she and Finn must work together to bring him out of Incarceron, and into the “real” world.

And with Incarceron itself watching, waiting, and toying with its inhabitants, Claudia and Finn’s task is no small feat.

Incarceron is an amazing feat of a novel from author Catherine Fisher. The book, actually initially published in the UK back in 2007, is part dystopian critique, part science fiction parable, part fantasy. This is not an easy blend to pull together, but Ms. Fisher does it with aplomb. Her world building in particular is PHENOMENAL. I loved the oddity of advanced technology in a royalty-imposed archaic time period – the monarchs and nobles emulate the late medieval western model of courts, down to the dress, castles and mannerisms. But this is not a medieval society! Claudia’s world has incredibly advanced technology, from “skin wands” to give humans the permanent appearance of youth to programable holograms, to artificial intelligence and reality-shifting tools. Despite this technology, however, those in power have resisted any change, abandoning their advanced tools in order to embrace the ways of old, in an attempt to control the population – which rings as very familiar. There’s also Incarceron itself, which is a whole new world on its own. Initially an experiment to create a perfect world for the unruly masses, of course went wrong. The concept of a utopia that is actually a dystopia isn’t really a new one, but this Ms. Fisher writes it so well, and with such awesome variation within Incarceron itself, of A.I. gone horribly awry, it hardly matters.

In terms of plotting, Incarceron is also surefooted, as it packs in revelation upon revelation, surprises, and twists at an expert pace. I could not put Incarceron down – Ms. Fisher is one hell of a storyteller.

Finally, what is a book without its characters? The cast of this novel is similarly well-rounded, though at first glance, they are very standard, fantasy archetypes. There’s the rebellious, intelligent (and beautiful) future queen; the orphaned boy thief with a heart of gold and a destiny to save the land; the calm, wise teacher; the jealous, handsome, morally-ambiguous best friend; the ragamuffin tag along girl; the zealous, prophecy-driven priest; the power-usurping, beautifully cruel queen; etc. These are very familiar character molds, no doubt about it – but as Incarceron progresses, the characters are shown in different ways. Not one thing is exactly how it seems, and that goes for characters as well. In particular, I loved the character of Claudia’s father – the cold, immutable, powerful Warden of Incarceron, Lord John Arlex. I loved the insights to his character throughout the book, especially in his strained relationship with Claudia’s tutor, Jared, and the Warden’s terrified – yet defiant – daughter, Claudia. (There’s one particular scene near the end of the book between these three characters that is made of mind-blowing awesomeness.)

So far as protagonists go, Claudia is as plucky as they come, but it is Finn that captures hearts with his vision, his trusting friendships, and his courage. The other character I truly enjoyed is the morally ambiguous Keiro – handsome and power-hungry, different characters have different interpretations of Keiro. Finn, as his oath-brother, is tied to Keiro by an unbreakable bond – should one of them die, it is the other’s responsibility to avenge them at any cost. And, as a loyal friend, Finn knows Keiro’s flaws, his hunger for power, his recklessness, but he also believes that underneath it all, Keiro would do anything for Finn. Other characters, however, are not so generous, as Keiro is seen as a rogue, out only to use Finn to get him out of Incarceron, no matter the cost. In any case, Keiro is a character that isn’t easy to peg, and I’m excited to see what happens with him in the next book.

With its breathtaking world-building, admirable characters, and exceptional plotting, Incarceron is a dystopian, sci-fi gem. I loved it, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series, Sapphique!
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
778 reviews519 followers
February 24, 2010
The prison Incarceron reminds me a lot of HAL, the space ship's board computer of Kubrick's "Space Odyssey": Both are fitted out with artificial intelligence and go rogue.

Incarceron takes place in the future. 160 years ago a king decided that cutting off mankind from its strive after one technological improvement after the next would end greed, war and the slow crumbling of society. So he forbid time and progress and switched everything back to an era long passed: An age, when people traveled on horseback and did without electricity. But the same new old era also contains computer generated old-looking trees and fake spiderwebs - and rich people have found ways to hide electric cables in the staff rooms and lush bathrooms behind secret panels. Following the so-called "Protocol" completely is only obligatory if you are lower class.

A second step towards a violence and crime-free world was the construction of the self-regulating, autonomous prison Incarceron, where all criminal, dangerous, politically extreme and mentally ill people were sent off to - together with 70 volunteers to guard them. The fact that after closing the doors nobody could enter and nobody could leave played into the hands of Incarceron itself: Nobody could hinder it to turn the planned paradise into a hell serving it's own strange taste in amusement. Not even the learned volunteers.

In the real world nobody knows about the unpleasant development of the former experiment. Nobody but the Warden, who has got the only key to the prison.

The story follows Claudia, the present Warden's daughter, who has been promised to the unfit Crown Prince to be his future bride, on the "Outside" and gang member Finn, who woke up inside the prison at the age of fifteen without a proper memory, on the "Inside". He claims not to be one of the prison's recycled products, but to be imported from the real world - where he wants to return to.

Also lined up are a handful of interesting side-characters including Claudia's tutor Jared, the ice-cold and scheming Warden and the evil Queen on the one side, and Keiro, Finn's oathbrother and two other travel-mates (Gildas and Attia) on the other side.

The story kept my attention all of the time. I liked Finn a lot and Claudia a little less. In fact, she was sometimes quite annoying, which can be explained by her upbringing as the next puppet on the throne. But I always wanted to know what happened next - even to her.

The plot ends with a cliff-hanger. But the sequel Sapphique is already available.
Profile Image for Eileen.
257 reviews6 followers
February 22, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, but I have always been into reading fairytales and although they don't live happily ever after, this book reads like a fairytale. It's a very imaginative, original and engrossing story that is vividly written with great characters. It has action and suspense, but no romance (thank God, no love-triangle!).I loved every second of it and although I didn't want to rush through it and enjoy it to the fullest, I couldn't put it down until I reached the last page. It's all about Finn, Claudia and of course Incarceron.

Finn is a prisoner with no memory, sure he came from Outside though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man has ever escaped. More than anything he wants to know who he is and where he came from, but can he ever be sure? He hates it that he has no choice, but to leave his friends behind on the Inside.

Claudia, the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, lives Outside like a prisoner in a manor house, in a society where time is forbidden and doomed to an arranged marriage. She unravels the mystery around the death of a Prince, she thinks she knows the truth and she thinks that she knows who she is, but does she really?

Finn and Claudia both want to escape, they both hold a key and they both want to KNOW. They meet, bond and are united in their fight for freedom and truth.

Incarceron is alive, sees and hears everything and is, like Finn and Claudia, also looking for a way out.

Can't wait to read the sequel: "Sapphique".

Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,357 reviews831 followers
August 28, 2014
Bullet Review:

If there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's that life is too short to spend on books and things that you aren't enjoying.

DNF @ 19%.

Some people will love "Incarceron". Hell, lots of my friends already do. And I can understand why - it's a pretty unique concept and (so far) doesn't rely 100% on insta-love, romantic plot triangles, and stupid characters. And for people who love steampunk, there's that as well.

But, it really doesn't have the things I like to read in a book. The characters are dull and hard to root for. Claudia, our female viewpoint character, has a plotline related to her being betrothed to royal d-bag, Casper. The Queen is evil. The setting is faux steampunk, and I'm no steampunk fan. And more importantly, the world-building is CONFUSING and hard to follow and BORING. I'm not quite sure what the plot is other than "Incarceron and the Queen are evil! We must defeat them!" - and I can't tell you how many times I've seen THAT plot variation.

Great idea, badly executed, but hey, there's a lot worse out there, which is why I'm rating 3 rather than 2 stars. Plus, a book that DOESN'T feature our female viewpoint character immediately getting wet panties over a boy is worth recommending.
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