Catherine Fisher’s latest fantasy novel, Incarceron, has recently been released in the US by Dial, and this The Times’ Children’s Book of the Year (2007) is worth picking up.
Incarceron is a prison unlike anything you’ve ever imagined: its inmates live their whole lives, from birth to death, in an entirely enclosed world with a vast network of cities, underground tunnels, metal forests, and unbound wilderness, all under the ever-present, all-seeing, sentient Eye of Incarceron. It has been sealed for centuries and only in legend has anyone ever escaped. Finn, a 17 year old prisoner, has no memories before waking up in a cell 3 years before. Every time he tries to remember a childhood, he’s overtaken by violent seizures and visions. He’s determined to escape because he believes he’s from Outside, and then he finds a crystal key, and through it, a girl named Claudia. Claudia claims to live Outside: her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she’s betrothed to the Crown Prince of a realm that’s decreed to remain in Medieval times forever. But escape from Incarceron, and an arranged marriage, is much more involved and dangerous than either Finn or Claudia realize and they must overcome obstacles, both within Incarceron and without, to free themselves.
The beautifully imagined world of Incarceron is revealed to the reader slowly, with each chapter unraveling more of the mystery of this world, its history, dangers, and possibilities. The pacing is at times slow, but the skill and complexity with which the plot, characters and action is developed is worth the wait. Exploring themes of loyalty, reality and freedom, Fisher’s characters and their fantastical world raise thought-provoking questions and issues readers will enjoy chewing on while they savor this great book.
- Posted by Cori