Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Synopsis:
Incarceron is a living prison from which no one can escape, but when the warden’s daughter makes a shocking discovery, she works to break Incarceron’s protections with the aid of a boy who believes he was born on the outside.

Review:
I attempted to listen to the audio book of Incarceron, but the late stages of pregnancy has made it impossible for me to concentrate on anything more complicated than nursery rhymes. But the concept really grabbed me, so I snagged a copy through Interlibrary Loan–and devoured it in just a few short hours (thanks to some free babysitting by visiting Grandma). I literally read the last 10 pages standing up while setting the table for lunch–that’s how badly I wanted to know the ending.

I have complained in the past about lack of originality in speculative fiction for young adults. I am too easily wearied by the stock characters and unoriginal plot elements. Incarceron stands up there with the best in the genre, like the Atherton series for middle grade and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies sequence.

The core concept is that Incarceron was designed to be a utopia, and that’s how it was portrayed to the world. It would be a place where criminals would be reformed by a perfect society. From page 1 we know that it didn’t work out that way, but Claudia, the warden’s daughter, and her tutor believe the myth to be true. On the inside, Finn lives the reality. Incarceron is dangerous, not only because its social structure is based around warring clans who think nothing of murdering to achieve their goals, but also because Incarceron itself has a consciousness, one that isn’t benevolent.

There were two big plot twists that I foresaw, but that didn’t take away from my pleasure in reading the book, because there was so much going on that kept me really interested. I’m eagerly looking forward to the release of Sapphique, the next in the series, because I can’t figure out where Catherine Fisher plans to take us–but I know it will be good!

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