Author: Catherine Fisher
Release date: December 28, 2010
Source: ARC received from Tabitha at Writer Musings
Series: Sequel to Incarceron
**NOTE - Spoilers are hidden**
Summary: (from Goodreads) The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.
Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn’s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison’s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finn’s and Claudia’s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn’t fully believe.
Meanwhile, Finn’s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.
First impressions: I just adore how well Catherine Fisher creates the worlds of Incarceron and Outside. She definitely pulls you in, and the opening chapter here does not disappoint. We follow one of our main characters from inside the prison, attending a magic show that quickly evolves into something more. The dark, oily world of Incarceron is absolutely compelling.
Lasting impressions: This book lost me at a couple of points, where the action slowed and I wasn't sure where the story was going so I almost gave up. It's sad because the characters and world here are so incredible that it's truly a shame that the plot wasn't equally as brilliant.
Conflicting impressions: Like the first book, this one left a few too many gaps for my taste. I felt like Fisher didn't explain things as fully as she could have in order to ease our understanding of what was going on.
Overall impressions: It's hard to say much about this book without giving away the ending of the previous book, Incarceron. The important thing to know is that Incarceron is a living prison, and some of the prisoners inside are still trying to get out. They have to battle the prison for control of a glove believed to reveal the way out. Meanwhile, Outside, the Warden of Incarceron's daughter, Claudia, is trying to lead a revolt against the Queen and free the prisoners of Incarceron.
Catherine Fisher writes dark, complex, complicated novels, so I had a very hard time deciding what kind of rating to give this book, or even processing how I really felt about it. The world Outside the prison, and the prison Incarceron itself, are not good places to be. As such, there are no easy answers about where one would prefer to exist, or whose life is truly better. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding who to root for.
Do I root for the death of Incarceron, and with it the millions of prisoners still trapped inside? Or do I root for the prison to open, freeing the prisoners but unleashing them on a dying society?
I couldn't really answer those questions, which I think explained my confusion and uncertainty with the book. This was equally balanced, however, with beautiful prose and colorful characters. I loved the people, and while all the main characters are back from the first book, we got some interesting new ones as well.
One of the best things about these books is the simple fact that Fisher writes so beautifully. It took me longer than usual to read this book because I wanted to savor every word and phrase. Even though I got a little frustrated at times that I didn't quite know what the overarching goal of the story was, I really enjoyed the journey because of Fisher's gift with words.
Despite the lack of details that I like, and the seeming lack of a fully realized direction for the story, I did enjoy this book a lot. The fantasy steampunk world of Outside coupled with the dystopian prison is fascinating and unlike anything else I've read. Fisher wins major bonus points for originality and writing style. I recommend both books if you're looking for something different, challenging, and thought-provoking to read.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Want to read my take on the first book? Click to read my review of Incarceron. Fun fact: it was also my very first review!
As part of the All Male Review Challenge, I am giving away my ARC of this book to one lucky winner!
This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on June 3, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 4th. Good luck!