12 Weeks of Hot Summer Reads: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

This is Week 1 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

For me, summer reading is all about escaping somewhere else. The new vista doesn't have to be pretty, but it does need to be interesting. The world of Incarceron, introduced in the novel Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, delivers an escape like nothing else (for the reader, although not for the poor souls trapped within). Incarceron is a prison, but not like the prisons we are familiar with. It is a world unto itself, with areas of ruins and forests, and some wildernesses so wild that they are only whispered of but never traversed. Incarceron is also aware in a way that most prisons are not - it reacts to the prisoners' actions, manipulating them, and watching them with a pulsing, Sauron-like eye.

Our hero in the world of Incarceron is Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner who is considered "cell born" and remembers only vague memories of his life before he became aware three years ago. He is part of a band of rogues that troll the prison, called the Comitatus. He also has some freaky fainting spells, complete with visions. He believes that he was born "Outside" but no one believes him because that is very rare.

Outside of the prison, we are introduced to our second hero, Claudia. She is the daughter of the powerful Warden of Incarceron, and she is trapped in a faux 18th-century manor lifestyle, complete with curtsying and an arranged marriage to a pig of a Prince. All of the "Era" is a farce, of course, for undernreath the cobwebbed corners and creaky floors lie a web of technology that runs everything.

Through different series of event, both Claudia and Finn discover a strange, beautiful crustal key, that allow them to communicate with each other, and to dream about escape from their separate imprisonments. The book is fast-paced, with plenty of evil characters and moral ambiguity to make keep you on the edge of your seat. The library has both the book and the audio version.

Incarceron was originally published in the UK in 2007, but it is brand new in the U.S., published here in 2010. Look for the sequel, Sapphique, to arrive here next year.

You can read the first chapter online and see the cool book trailer below.