By Catherine Fisher
I have so much hype for Incarceron! If I recall correctly, this was the first book I read by Fisher back when it was new in 2007 or so. I really enjoyed it then, and I have the same feeling now.
Incarceron is fast-paced, mysterious, and kind of creepy. Of course, the first time, I thought it was quite a bit more unsettling than I did this time around, but due to reading things like Stephen King’s The Shining and ’Salem’s Lot, it didn’t quite hit the same “eek” chords.
But some of Fisher’s descriptions in Incarceron are to die for. She does such a fabulous job of creating a strong sense of place, especially when her characters spend a lot of time in the dark. I won’t mention specifics, but it’s incredibly easy to create a story map in your head through Fisher’s words. A+ on that.
Incarceron jumps between two points of view. One in the prison. One out. Eventually, these two points merge. The pacing of each chapter was well-in-hand, not allowing for too much of one POV before switching back to the other. It’s definitely what helped move the book along, keeping that integral string of mystery alive throughout the novel.
Okay, fine, I have one unhappiness with Incarceron. The character, Finn. Compared to the other characters, he’s pretty weak. He doesn’t do as much thinking for himself (which sometimes makes sense in context of his character, but not always,) and he spends more time reacting to things happening to and around him than anything else. It doesn’t take away from the story, really, but it does create a sense of “eh” when Finn gets into trouble or needs saving or situations look dire. Finn only seems to have a personality adjacent to the people he’s surrounded by.
When thinking of core character traits, I think of it like this (and this is a fabulous exercise for building your own characters): Attia? Loyal, stalwart, and observant. Keiro? Brash, selfish, and stubborn. Gildas? Determined, obsessive, and arrogant. Claudia? Calculating, passionate, and willful. Jared? Practical, introspective, and kind. But what about Finn? He’s indecisive, I’ll give him that, but that’s not really a strong character trait. Reading the list above, it should be pretty obvious what each character is generally like, how they might react to each other, and how they might respond to stress.
Finn’s relatively weak characterization is no reason to leave Incarceron on the shelf though! It’s confusing and unique and, honestly, just a lot of fun. Even as a YA novel, it skirts many issues such as human nature, good versus evil, loyalty versus ambition, and the oldie-but-goodie: Do our memories make us who we are?
If you’re looking for a steampunk-ish fantasy adventure, Incarceron is the book for you!
Because I have no memory of reading (perhaps just finishing) Incarceron’s sequel, Sapphique, I’ll be reading it next to finish off the series and finally get some closure! See you next time!