by Catherine Fisher
In this sequel to Incareceron, former prisoner Finn—the first to escape from the prison-world of Incarceron since the legendary Sapphique—struggles to accept the new identity that has been thrust upon him. The Warden's daugther Claudia thinks Finn may be Prince Giles, heir to the throne of the Realm and her own betrothed, and that his supposed death at age 15 was meant to cover up a conspiracy between Queen Sia (Giles' stepmother) and the Warden to trap the Prince in Incareron and replace him with Sia's odious son Caspar. But Finn only has a few fragmentary memories of his life before the prison, and even he isn't sure that he is (or was) Giles. He had better be, though. Because a Pretender has stepped forward, claiming to be the real Giles, and his patter is so convincing that Finn himself half believes him. And if the trial to decide which is the real Giles is decided against him, Finn will be executed—and Claudia with him.
Meanwhile, back in the prison, Incarceron itself has developed a personality, and that person (like everybody else in the prison) wants to escape from itself. To do that, it plays on the hopes and ambitions of Finn's friends Keiro and Attia, the madness of a stage magician named Rix, and the temptation of a dragonskin glove (complete with claws) said to have belonged to Sapphique himself. While this group makes its way to the heart of Incarceron, facing spectacular dangers and the savagery of several weird groups of prisoners, the prison's plans are either helped or hindered (one isn't sure which) by the former Warden, who is now a prisoner himself. And back in the realm, a gravely ill sapient named Jared shows a surprising knack for survival as he races to get the secret of opening the door to Incarceron to his beloved Claudia before the Queen's siege of the Wardenry cuts off all access.
This is a complex story with many moving parts, many of them moving by feints and deceptions, so that the reader is kept guessing as to what is going on and how (or if) it will all work out. Its flawed characters all have their own selfish motivations, so that at times one may question whether any of them are worth caring for; and yet in spite of it all they care about each other. The world-within-a-world of Incarceron remains a place of scenic marvels, mysteries, and horrors, while the Realm outside—the "real world" that has been frozen in time by an amazing sci-fi concept called Protocol—turns out to be even more unreal that you might expect. And the challenges facing the main characters at the end are so great that one might dare to hope that this will become a trilogy. Even if it does not, fans of Incarceron will be glad to know that Welsh author Catherine Fisher has started a new series titled "The Island of the Mighty," whose first book is The Cat With Iron Claws.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
If you would like to contact Robbie, you may do so here.