Author: Catherine Fisher
In this sensational follow-up to January’s Incarceron, Fisher nails it again. The dark, ragged halls and dangerous wings of Incarceron are visited once more, as the story alternates back and forth between the world of the prison and the outside. Things inside are starting to fail, risking the life of every being. Incarceron has become obsessed with going outside and is focusing all of its energy on building a body to achieve that goal, slowly sucking the life out of its very walls. And things aren’t any better on the outside; Finn, finally free, is still fighting for his life, but in the unfamiliar arena of the royal court. He is being sold to the public as the lost prince, but he still doubts it himself, enforced by the debilitating visions he’s still having. And when the queen presents a challenge for the throne, Finn needs to really try and figure out who he is and if he’s truly ready to step up and claim the throne that is supposedly his.
This story is just as wonderfully complex as its predecessor. As each chapter goes back and forth between the two worlds, Fisher manages to flawlessly create unique tension that builds, and she keeps it going, leaving you hanging by switching to the other side of the story just when things get good.
Finn and Claudia are trying to convince everyone on the outside that Finn is the long-lost heir to the throne. This is made all the harder with the disappearance of her father, Incarceron’s warden, into the prison, leaving them to struggle alone. Finn isn’t cut out for a life of rules where appearance is everything, and he is constantly struggling against these new confines. Their efforts are also complicated by his visions, which continue to occur even though he is no longer inside. The political intrigue that builds throughout this part of the story is perfection; it is easy to empathize with Finn, even while wanting desperately for him to just suck it up and take up the mantle of the throne. Add in the other contender for the throne that appears practically out of thin air, fitting the image of the lost prince so well that even Claudia begins to doubt Finn being the heir, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
The Incarceron part of the story was even better. Finn’s friends were left behind, and they’re desperate to emerge. His oath-brother, Keiro, is bitter about being left behind because of his metal parts, and with the help of Attia is on a quest to seek the mythical magical glove of Sapphique, a tool that supposedly would allow them to pass out of the prison. The main challenge they face is that Incarceron wants the glove too, to use on the mechanical body it is building, and so at every turn they face danger. Even when the prison teams up with them, they know they can’t let their guards down for even a moment. There is one particular scene, when they challenge a beast in the ice wing, that left me breathless and with chills, it was so uniquely creepy. And that’s what Fisher does best: the one-of-a-kind elements of this story keep it captivating the entire time, and I was constantly amazed by her brilliant imagination.
The ending was perfection. Fisher keeping me connected so intimately with characters I loved made it a wonderfully satisfying close. And it feels like this is the end of the story. I’m sure there is room for another book to follow in there, but I was happy with the way things were left. It was a radiant finish to a dazzling story, and one I will be happy to revisit for years to come.
Reviewed by: Lauren Z.