Sapphique: A Review

Sapphique by Catherine FisherFinn has finally Escaped Incarceron, the living prison and the only home he remembers. He is the long lost heir to the throne of the Realm. But he still feels like a prisoner.

Outside isn’t the paradise he or his fellow prisoners dreamt of. Instead, Finn finds himself trapped in a complicated game of intrigue and lies he can’t seem to escape still unable to remember his past or help his friends Inside.

Claudia, daughter of Incarceron’s Warden, thought helping Finn escape and declaring him the long lost heir to the Realm would be the end of her problems. Instead she finds herself with new ones as her fate is tied dangerously to Finn’s and his attempts to reclaim the throne.

Meanwhile Finn’s friends Keiro and Attia are still trapped Inside. There are rumors in the prison of a magical glove–a glove that Sapphique himself used to escape.

But finding it won’t be easy.

Sapphique was the only prisoner Incarceron ever loved and it is desperate to see the wonders he spoke of Outside, desperate enough to try an Escape of its own.

Everyone is wants to Escape, but life Outside can be as perilous as life Inside in Sapphique (December 2010*) by Catherine Fisher.

Sapphique is the stunning sequel to Incarceron. Much as I enjoyed this book, it really is dependent on the first book as a foundation and should be read in order.

The story picks up shortly after Incarceron’s breathtaking conclusion. Fisher aptly captures the discomfort and confusion of going from rags to riches and the dangers even a world of luxury can hold. This book also expands upon the relationships of the first book and reveals more about the characters–their wants, their fears. Many of the secondary characters (especially Jared and Keiro) are more developed in this volume though Attia still remained very enigmatic.

Broken into five parts, Sapphique takes readers across the Realm, into the depths of Incarceron and beyond. The lore of the Realm and Incarceron is well-developed and excellently shared in the story and in epipgraphs from ephemera of the Realm/Prison found at the beginning of each chapter.

While Sapphique is a satisfying conclusion to a breakneck adventure of a series, some readers may find the ending a bit rushed. Everything about the prison and the Realm is explained. The problem with such a well-realized world is that there is a lot to explain. And that leaves little time for tying up loose ends with characters.**

Sapphique has all of the action and intrigue readers of the first book will remember and love but it also delves into new territory about Protocol and Incarceron leading to a conclusion that is in many ways just as shocking and just as well-realized as the powerhouse ending of Incarceron.

*Sapphique was originally published in 2008 in the UK.

**To be fair Fisher really does explain and resolve everything. All the same, some resolutions were more implied between the lines than this reviewer would have liked.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, 1984 by George Orwell, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne, Hook (movie with Robin Williams)

Exclusive Bonus Content: I love the covers for the US versions of these books. Incarceron has a key and Sapphique has a lock. Aside from loving locks and keys, I think this is really a clever way to capture some essential truth about this duet.

Also, did Sapphique remind anyone else a lot of Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief books?

Ten for 2010

In no particular order, my ten favorite books from 2010:

  1. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett is still living in a NYC hotel and her life is about to get way more insane when her boss Mrs. Amberson gives her the unenviable job of befriending an annoyingly perfect young Broadway star. Add to that said star’s especially annoying brother, Max, and you have a recipe for disaster.
  2. Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows a lot about stealing. So much, in fact, that she managed to steal herself a normal life. That was before she had to leave that life to clear her father of the one robbery he really didn’t commit.
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Sophos never wanted to be King of Sounis. But after he is abducted and presumed dead by his kingdom, Sophos realizes that responsibilities very rarely care about wants.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Tessa Gray travels to London wanting to find her brother and start a new life. Instead she is dragged into the world of Shadowhunters and London’s Downworld–people with mysterious powers not of this world.
  7. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  8. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan: Mae struggles to protect her brother Jamie from the warlocks who want to exploit his power. The enigmatic Ryves brothers are willing to help–if they can overcome their own demons first.
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Duh, who doesn’t have this one on their list? Do I even need to blurb it?
  10. White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.

Is it still early in the year? Yes. That said, these are my favorites so far. Maybe before the year is out there will be more but I’m not expecting it simply because there isn’t that much time to read more books from 2010. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being my top eleven or twelve.

Incarceron: A Review

Incarceron is a prison like no other.Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

It is a closed system; nothing enters the prison. And nothing ever leaves. Incarceron was built to be self-sufficient. Nothing goes to waste. Food is recycled, materials made over and over. Prisoners, when they pass, are not buried or burned–their atoms are used to create new inmates.

In a prison so vast, most prisoners cannot imagine a world Outside their misery.

Finn is different.

Seventeen or eighteen years old, Finn has no memory of his past. No one believes his claims that he came from Outside. Fragmented recollections haunt him with tantalizing details of stars and other delights never seen inside the prison. Some think they are visions sent to guide Finn to Escape. Finn hopes they are memories of the life he once had–a life he can return to Outside.

But Incarceron is not the only way to imprison a person. Claudia lives a life of privilege Outside trapped under the watchful gaze of her father, the Warden of Incarceron. Her arranged marriage is fast approaching, threatening to drag her into a life of intrigue and games she does not want.

Claudia thinks if she can find the prison’s secret location she might be able to unlock the secrets of her own past and find the key to her freedom. Perhaps her search will be the key to Finn’s Escape as well in Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2010)*.

Find it on Bookshop.

To call this book action-packed would be a gross understatement. I’m not going to lie, Incarceron started so fast that I actually had to read the first chapter twice to make sense of it. After the crazy dramatic beginning, Fisher lets readers take a bit of a breath and the story starts to move along in a more easy-to-process manner.

Fisher tells the story from two very distinct viewpoints. Each character has their own voice, their own unique take on the world. On top of that Fisher manages to use pacing to further differentiate between the worlds inside and outside the walls of Incarceron. Life in the prison is, unsurprisingly, no picnic. The writing captures that perfectly from the frenetic chaos among the inmates vying for position to the filth and despair that permeates all parts of the prison**. Outside, Fisher evokes a lighter, fresher world if not a gentler one. The brutality of Finn’s life in Incarceron contrasts well with the subtle intrigue and treachery found in the rarefied world Claudia inhabits at Court.

To complete the picture each chapter opens with a fragment of writing from Court, of the history inside Incarceron, or from other relevant sources to tease out details of the prison (and the characters’) past in this story that’s part futuristic-steampunk-fantasy, part prison break, part palace intrigue, all awesome.

Incarceron is an exciting, brutal read that will keep you at the edge of your seat from the (slightly confusing) beginning to the nail-biter ending. Everything about this book was well-done and satisfying except for one thing: It’s the first of two books. While the story ties up a lot of loose ends, the full story won’t be revealed until Sapphique‘s December 2010 publication.

*Incarceron was originally published in 2007 in the UK where it received tons of accolades before being published here three years later.

**The prison itself reminded me a lot of the Neverland created in Hook–the 1991 “sequel” to Peter Pan with Robin Williams–particularly the hideout of the Lost Boys where they spend all their time being slobs and running about like lunatics.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, 1984 by George Orwell, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Lotus and  Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne, Hook (movie with Robin Williams)