**Originally posted on cj's bookshelf on June 10, 2011**
Title: Incarceron, Sapphique
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication Dates: Incarceron: January 2010; Sapphique: December 2010
Reading Level: 14 and up
Incarceron Synopsis: (from Goodreads) -
Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born.
Sapphique Synopsis: (from Goodreads) -
Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don't even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.
I tried. I really, really tried. But the fact remains that - other than around chapter 27 when things REALLY started getting going - I just didn't care about these characters. I've said in other reviews that if I don't care about the characters or the plot, then there's really no point in continuing to read (or watch, as the case may be). I have very little context for what's going on in these books - I don't know why they chose to instate Protocol or trap everyone in the Regency Era, I don't know how Incarceron came about, I don't know if this is science or magic (or some combination of both - but to what extent?), I don't know how the Warden came into power, I don't know where Queen Sia came from or how her sorcery works, I don't know who the Sapienti are or even why they are important! How were people selected to be Prisoners of Incarceron? Where did Sapphique come from - was he even a real person or was he just a legend that the Prisoners invented? Who in the world is King Endor or Lord Calliston and why are we getting excerpts from their writings at the beginning of each chapter? Why did the Warden take Claudia from the Prison as a baby and raise her to be Queen? Why does he need his daughter to be Queen? What does the Warden do all day, anyway?
These are things I think about. And I certainly can't be the only one.
For two whole books, I expected there to be a satisfactory explanation of how this world works and I never got it. Because I didn't have any context for the world, I didn't know why these characters were doing these things and it didn't make any sense. It would be safe to say that I got more out of the summaries on the book jackets than I did out of the actual story.
The narrative takes a lot for granted. No, I should say that it assumed too much. It assumed that readers would simply fill in the blanks on their own and left waaaay too much out. I wanted to care about Finn and Keiro (even though I thought Keiro was a twerp - oh, that's another question: How did Finn and Keiro become oathbrothers? What does that even mean?), but I couldn't. I wanted to care about Attia - but she was more or less window dressing in the first book, so I ignored her. But then she became inexplicably important in "Sapphique" and I didn't know why.
See, this is a difficult review for me to write because all I have are questions. Of course, by the end of "Sapphique," I knew that the end goal was to end Protocol, but I wasn't sure why or even how they did it. And was Claudia's life so terrible under Protocol? Who were the Steel Wolves? What was their purpose?
I can see that this review is just all questions and no answers and I suppose that's all you really need to know. But I feel terrible because some of my students told me they loved this book and they couldn't put it down (one kid in particular isn't much of a reader and he said he liked it a lot). I'm sure this would appeal to a certain kind of reader - but I was so confused by this story that I couldn't tell you who exactly would enjoy it.