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Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Written by son of rambow on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Many reviews title this piece as Fantasy, but to my fascination, this was a intricate blend of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I call these sorts of books "Fantascientifiction"- but the mixture between the two genres was completely new and was what originally drew me to the novel.

There are two major settings in the story, and each of them has fantastical and futuristic elements. One being Incarceron, the prison itself, which can be described as a sci-fi environment with lesser technology than our own. This is extremely interesting, and the atmosphere of an aging but advanced society reminds me a bit of the City of Ember (from Jeanne DuPrau's novel The City of Ember).

The other environment which I did not find as fascinating as the former was a medieval country with better technology. As the story progressed, I began to enjoy the two settings as much as each other.

The two settings alone were what made me purchase and read the book, but the story line moved extremely quickly, and the characters were well written. The ending was fairly satisfying, and only things that I disliked were how it was easy to get lost, or misunderstand where exactly the characters were at some points. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or both, because even if you dislike some elements of the story, or hate to read about dystopia, the plot and narration will keep you interested till the very end.


Seventeen-year-old Finn is convinced he does not belong in Incarceron, the endless nightmare of a prison. Created hundreds of years ago by the wise council of the Sapienti, Incarceron is unlike any prison ever constructed. Prisoners do not just live in cells but also the world that is Incarceron. This includes rundown cities, unbridled wilderness, deep chasms and the unknown. According to legend, only one man has ever escaped to the “Outside”: the mysterious Sapphique. Finn plans on following in Sapphique’s footsteps, but a few obstacles stand in his way, one of which is the person who overlooks Incarceron: the Warden.

On the Outside, only the Warden knows the secrets of Incarceron, and he has no plans to share them, not even to his only daughter, Claudia. Being the Warden’s daughter, Claudia has been exposed to the finest things money can buy. Her trusty tutor, Jared, has left out nothing from her top-notch education. There are strings attached to this upbringing, however, and the Warden has slowly been preparing Claudia to become queen in an arranged marriage she is dreading. It doesn’t help that she is also terrified of her father and his power over both her and Incarceron.

Circumstances begin to change for Finn and Claudia when they both come into possession of a mysterious crystal key. Claudia managed to swipe hers from her father’s study, while Finn procured his after a deadly hostage exchange. Not only do the keys enable Finn to unlock doors within Incarceron, they also allow Claudia and Finn to see and hear each other. Armed with this new power, they pledge to help one another escape their ill-fated situations.

Claudia is now in a race against time. Her marriage is only days away, and she is determined to help Finn escape --- even if that means entering Incarceron herself. But a conspiracy brewing in the royal court just may end any hope of rescue. She is also unsure how to avoid the all-knowing, all-condemning authority of the Warden.

Meanwhile, Finn is in a battle against both himself and the deadly prison. Untold dangers lay ahead the dark and twisting world of Incarceron. Finn’s band of followers --- oathbrother Keiro, slave-girl Attia and resident prophet Gildas --- are just as clueless as Finn. Does he have enough determination to overcome the deception of Incarceron, and is it even possible for someone to leave? Incarceron is alive, watching and waiting.

The idea of putting the world’s criminals, terrorists and murderers into a self-sustaining prison is both alluring and intriguing. Not only would it potentially rid the world of immediate danger, it would also place the prisoners in a supernatural environment that appears free from the restrictions of a cell. Author Catherine Fisher takes this theory and runs with it. She has the difficult task of creating two completely opposite worlds and melding them into one storyline --- and ultimately succeeds on every level. Fantasy-lovers will be drawn into the worlds of INCARCERON and will not be disappointed in Fisher’s clever and expertly crafted plot. Add this one to your reading list immediately.

ISBN: 0340893605 (ISBN13: 9780340893609)
original title: Incarceron
literary awards:
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2010), Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2007), Booklist Top Ten Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels for Youth (2010), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)

this novel will be adapted into movie check out at imdb

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