Everyone thinks that the Incarceron created Finn, but he has memories of before. Memories of some place outside the prison. The only one who really believes him is an old sapient wise-man named Gildas, who believes in the lore about Sapphique, the only prisoner to ever escape. Gildas believes that between his knowledge of Sapphique lore and Finn’s visions of the outside that following Finn is the way to escape. Finn thinks that they both must be crazy until he finds a woman that recognizes the tattoo on his arm. The tattoo looks exactly like a key that she found, and once Finn gets his hands on the key he finds out that there really is an outside, because he can talk to a girl named Claudia through it.
When Claudia’s father, the warden of Incarceron, comes home and announces that her wedding date to Prince Casper has been moved up, Claudia panics. She hasn’t wanted to marry him since she learned of the engagement, and now she can no longer ignore the fact that the day of reckoning has come. As the maids flurry around the house making preparations she knows that her time at the house is short, and so is her time to find out exactly what her father is planning. So she and her tutor Jared make bold plans to break into his study, but she doesn’t find what she expected. All she finds is a key—a key to Incarceron. This key brings her into communication with Finn, a prisoner who is trying to find the way out. As the two communicate they discover a web of secrets that will change both of their worlds forever.
So I took a risk when I bought Incarceron because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not. I had read several reviews of it online. Some people loved it and others didn’t. One of the kids in the High School library raved that it was ranked among one of the best books he had ever read. I knew enough about the book to know that it was sort of fit into the steampunk sub-genre. So, I decided to risk it and ordered it off of Barnes and Noble the weekend that they sent a 15% off coupon to me. Incarceron doesn’t rank among one of the best books I have ever read, but I can recommend it as a good book. I was intrigued by the premise of the story from the very beginning, and became interested in both Claudia and Finn. It wasn’t until the last half of the book that I got hooked into plot and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I really liked all the Sapphique lore and thought that it gave the book a nice mythical feel to it.
The book is set in a future in which the king has declared that the kingdom must go back to old values in order to avoid war and social collapse. So the government has mandated that everything must be in era, specifically the Victorian Era. I had a debate with my husband about whether or not it was really steampunk because it was set in the future, and the technology wasn’t based off of the industrial revolution, but was far more advanced. I think my husband had a point when he said that most of the charm of steampunk is the alternate history aspect of it, but I feel that those who love steampunk stories will find enough Victorian era inspiration in the book to enjoy it as a steampunkish novel. I think the biggest complaint I had about this novel was that some of the descriptions were hard to follow on multiple occasions, but I don’t think this ruins the overall enjoyment of the characters and plot line. I am intrigued enough to want to check out the sequel Sapphique in December.