If you like Dystopian or Steampunk fiction, this book is for you!
As stated inside the book jacket: "Incarceron is a prison like no other." Simply put: the prison is ALIVE!
Incarceron, the prison, was started as a grand experiment to create a sealed world that would become a self-perpetuating civilization during the time of the once ruling Havaarna dynasty. "We will choose an era from the past and re-create it. It will be a world free from the anxiety of change! It will be Paradise!" was King Endor's Decree.
The original inhabitants of Incarceron were society's lowly criminal element and the lofty scientific and philosophical elite of their time, the Sapients, who volunteered to be locked away with them. The prison was then sealed for centuries and believed by those left on the outside to be a utopia.
This book is told in two perspectives: that of a prisoner named Finn inside Incarceron and that of the Warden's daughter, Claudia, who lives on the outside. Their stories eventually merge into one narrative by the end of the book.
Finn is a seventeen-year-old inmate of Incarceron who has flashes of memory of the world "outside" and no memory of his earlier childhood in the prison although he is said to be Cellborn, a product of Incarceron itself. Life is no picnic for him. He is part of a rough and cutthroat group called the Comitatus. One of his only protections is that he is known as a starseer. It is believed that the "visions" that come over him in fits link him to Sapphique, the Sapient Master who legend says is the only person to have escaped Incarceron successfully. In addition to his "gift," Finn initially has two protectors of sorts. First is Keiro, his blood sworn oathbrother and the other is Gildas, a Sapient scholar who has searched his whole life for a starseer to help him follow Sapphique to the Outside.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, we find Claudia Arlex, the privileged and willful daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. She too finds her life burdensome under the terms of Protocol, where the citizenry are kept in a bygone era of carriages and courtly dress and manner and where modern conveniences are available yet forbidden. She too longs for freedom as she is betrothed to Kaspar, Queen Sia's son and heir. She remembers an earlier time when she was first betrothed to Kaspar's older half-brother, Giles, before he was killed in an unfortunate "accident," or so she was told. Her fate is set and too soon the events are set in motion to hasten her marriage to the despicable Kaspar. Now her only comfort is the company of her long term tutor, the sickly Sapient Jared, whose company she much prefers over her cold and judgmental father the Warden.
It is here that events inside and outside the prison conspire to bring Finn and Claudia together by way of communication devices in the form of two identical keys bearing the royal symbols. Could these be the keys that lead the way out of Incarceron for Finn and a way out of a disastrous marriage for Claudia? Are Finn and Claudia who they think they are? Are things really as they seem? Is Incarceron what it seems? Pick up a copy to find out!
Recommended by Cheryl Finnan