Incarceron is a prison the size of a world, complete with mountains and chasms, and living metal forests and townships and secret compacts. Most of the inmates don’t even believe there’s an Outside—and even if there were, Incarceron is a closed system—nothing enters, and nothing leaves. The prison itself makes sure of that. How, you may ask? Simple—it’s alive.
Deep in its recesses, though, is a boy named Finn, a “son” of Incarceron, a cell-born who is believed to have been created by the organic matter in the prison itself… except he’s sure he’s from the Outside. Finn is a starseer, called by some a visionary or a prophet—but are these “visions” of the world Outside really his own memories? When he comes by a crystal key that matches a blue insignia on his wrist, Finn’s already eager desire to Escape is escalated by something completely unexpected—communication with a girl named Claudia, from the Outside, who claims to be the Warden’s daughter.
With their separate allies and enemies, Claudia and Finn work together to try and solve the mysteries of Incarceron—including its hidden location, and of course, the gateway out.
The thing I love about Incarceron by Catherine Fisher is that there are no easy answers. The riddles the characters have to solve aren’t simple wordplays, but really the characters around them—and all of them are intriguing shades of grey—even Incarceron itself. There are the wise Sapients, but with wisdom comes obsession. There is the cold and distant Warden, who is so skilled at hiding his own feelings that the reader can never be quite sure what he’s thinking. There’s Claudia, who wants to help Finn escape, but is ultimately doing it to thwart her father and avoid an impossible betrothal. And more than that, there’s the questions that Claudia and Finn are trying their hardest to answer—where is Incarceron? And how does one escape from it? And the worst question of all—is the Outside, where Time and Progress have been halted, and Protocol dictates the limits of a “perfect” age—is that any less of a prison?
The answers were breathtaking, and nothing I would have expected. The construct of this book as a whole is beautiful, from cover to content. I loved every minute reading it, and was thrilled to find a book that felt fresh and new, in a barricade of recycled ideas. Fisher doesn’t limit what she’s allowed to do in this book, and the result of that is awesome. Magic? Impossible science? Hocus pocus? Sword-play? Yes, it’s all there, with no apologies whatsoever. It doesn’t even feel quite like a suspension of disbelief—she pulls the wool over your eyes so successfully. This is a fantastic stand-alone book, but I’m beyond excited that there are plans for continuation here, because Incarceron’s secrets have only started to be revealed, and the world Outside is on the verge of a revolution. I can’t wait to see it.
This has an unreserved A+. I gave it five stars on Goodreads, but I would have given it seventeen, if I could.
Obtained: Via the friendly Public Library system.