Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons.
A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists.
But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born. [Source]
I received a free ARC of this book for completing a read-a-thon back in August. I didn't rush to read it, as I wasn't reviewing it for the publisher. I started off being really excited to read this book, which wore off a bit as time went on and I still hadn't read it. Luckily, I ended up liking it a lot!
Age recommendation: 13+
I love the way this book started. The action, the mystery, the foreshadowing... Right away, secrets are hinted at and Finn is introduced as the main character. I had to go back and reread several parts twice, because of all the secrets and double meanings. I figured out the biggest secret (Finn) easily enough, but I didn't get the Warden's secret (Claudia) until shortly before he revealed it. And as for Sapphique, that had me guessing up until the end.
There were two major things I didn't like about this book: First, it took forever for Claudia to actually DO something to try to save Finn. She was all talk, no action. I like Attia much more than Claudia. And second, the ending was so weak! So incredibly anti-climatic. I mean, the Queen just walked away. No way in hell I would have let that happen if I had written the book. Finding out that there is going to be a sequel only comforts me a slight bit. A sequel wouldn't be needed if there had been a better ending.