Incarceron by Catherine Fisher has two main characters. The story is alternately narrated by Claudia and Finn. Sure, Claudia is the heroine of the story, but it's hard for me to focus only on her when Finn is so much more likable.
Claudia and Finn are each trapped in prisons that are worlds apart.
Three years ago, Finn woke in a cell with no memory of his previous life and the red eyes of Incarceron have been watching him ever since. Finn has seizures in which he glimpses a world outside of the living prison. Other prisoners call him a starseer and most consider him crazy. Incarceron is limitless in its mechanization and ability to control the prisoners while reproducing itself. Most prisoners know what Finn refuses to admit: there is no world outside of Incarceron.
Claudia's father is the power-hungry and unscrupulous Warden of Incarceron. The prison was sealed years ago, no one goes in and no one comes out. The Warden is the only person who knows its location. Despite the existence of advanced technology, Claudia's world has been frozen in time and Protocol is strictly enforced. The rules of Protocol dictate everyone must speak, dress, and use objects from a time reminiscent of Victorian England.
But Protocol is only one bar in Claudia's prison. Her father raised her to be a political pawn. She's betrothed to a prince and the Warden will use his daughter to secure power. At first, Claudia accepts her part to play in the political game. She is so used to hiding her true feelings and playing mind games, that she forgets who she is.
Even though Finn is the thief and violent gang-member, Claudia is the ruthless one and she strays farther from her moral compass. I couldn't help but like Finn so much more.
This story read like a wicked fairy-tale. It's Rapunzel, the Prince and the Pauper, and Alice in Wonderland all rolled into one.
Catherine Fisher does a brilliant job of creating tension in each scene as Claudia and Finn discover each other and work towards what seems impossible: Escape. Finn's prison is terrifying as is the Queen Claudia works to subvert. I ended each chapter with my heart pounding. The shackles squeezed tighter and tighter with each scene and escape seemed less and less possible.
The ending was a little disappointing. After all the nail-biting tension, I feel like it just kind of fizzled out. But that's probably because there's going to be a sequel.
Incarceron is a dark and intense ride and I can't wait for Sapphique.