Finn knows nothing of his past. He was a teenager when he woke up without a memory within Incarceron’s vastness. Those that die are absorbed and reborn. No one enters. No one leaves. No one, that is, save Sapphique. Although it is not known how much of his story is true and how much is legend. Claudia is Outside. She is the prison warden’s daughter. She is promised in marriage to the prince. She will find a key that will change everything.
It isn’t a spoiler to say that Incarceron appears to have some sort of intelligence. At first, when the characters would describe the prison and how it is always watching, reacting, and changing I felt like they were anthropomorphizing it. The prison is awfully sinister, I could see how they would fear it and the ever present red eyes (aka cameras). However, that wasn’t the case. Incerceron is actually aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiive, y’all! And it seems to have gone rogue. At times I rolled my eyes (some of the things it said was a bit over the top), but all in all I think having the prison as a character worked. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the sequel.
I found that I quite enjoyed the characters – although I wouldn’t say there was a ton of character development. Pretty early on we can guess Finn’s true identity and I think that was the author’s intention. I really enjoyed Claudia – a spirited young lady willing to take risks and stand up to the most powerful people, even if at times she stretched believability. Keiro is probably the most interesting character. He’s Finn’s oathbrother, he’s clearly Scum (which is the name of bad prison gang folk) and I think you could say he is probably little ‘s’ scum too. His motivations and true loyalties aren’t clear, I was simultaneously convinced that he was going to betray Finn at any moment and that he would never ever betray him (he just was tricky and complex, you know?).
There is a dual narrative. We switch back and forth from Finn and his quest to escape to Claudia who is stuck in a prison of her own sort in the Outside. In truth, neither of them are free. We’ve discussed the prison, but life Outside is just as, if not more interesting.
At some point in history after the Years of Rage, the king at the time decreed, “We will choose an Era from the past and recreate it. We will make a world free from the anxiety of change! It will be paradise.” And so they did. It is like they’re playing court constantly, everyone caught in the web of Protocol. This is a society that had incredibly advanced technology. Now that technology is non-Era and illegal. For me, this was some of the most interesting world building in the book. I loved thinking about how they are forced to act as though they are in Regency England or something, but have holograms and spying devices that look like butterflies. It was very fun.
I really thought I was going to go crazy in love over this one and I didn’t – starred reviews by all the major publications anyone?! I enjoyed it, but there were things that jarred me out of the storyline (which I’ll keep to myself unless you want spoilers – and if you do just ask!). I thought it was a good book, but I didn’t fall head over heels for it, if you know what I mean.
Book Source = Library Copy