Tags: YA, fantasy, dystopian(ish)
Aside from the legendary Sapphique, Finn is the only prisoner ever to escape from the living prison Incarceron. He returns in the middle of court uproar: his friend Claudia, the daughter of the former Warden of Incarceron, is convinced that Finn is the lost prince, heir to the throne. Finn’s own doubts about his history aside, their lives become even more at stake when another young man shows up, claiming to be the lost prince.
Back in Incarceron, Finn’s friends Keiro and Attia search for Sapphique’s glove, which may be the only remaining way out of Incarceron. Trouble is, they’re not the only ones who seek the glove: the prison itself wants it, and doesn’t seem to care how many lives get destroyed in the process.
If Incarceron was a great book that “shakes the foundations of your literary beliefs” (quoting from my review of Incarceron), then SAPPHIQUE is a fantasy achievement of canonical proportions. It takes everything we appreciated and were in awe of in the first book and takes it to the next level, making sure that this is a two-book series we will remember for decades to come.
Whereas Incarceron took me a couple of chapters to get into, SAPPHIQUE captured my attention immediately, opening with one of Attia’s attempts to get the Glove. We are already fairly well aware of how Incarceron as well as the Protocol-mandated “real world” operates, and thus the stakes can be all the higher in this sequel. Catherine Fisher loves to write chapters with nail-biting endings that just force you to keep on reading. It’s fast-paced and utterly brilliant.
Incarceron and SAPPHIQUE are part of that rare type of novel where the fast-paced expansiveness of the story excuses weaknesses in characterization. Some readers will still not like Finn, Claudia, Keiro, or Attia in this second book—but they are not really meant to be liked. They are people stuck in life-or-death situations, and they can’t afford to be nice, for to be nice is to lose.
So SAPPHIQUE’s appeal lies not in its characters, but rather in the way Catherine Fisher can tell a story that keeps you glued to the pages. The ending may frustrate some readers, but personally I thought it was the perfect ending to the story, and something that had been building up for a while. SAPPHIQUE is a must-read if you were a fan of Incarceron, and I can only hope that Catherine Fisher will write more extraordinary books in the very near future!
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - A perfect complement to Incarceron's cover.
Penguin Books / Dec. 28, 2010 / Hardcover / 462pp. / $17.99
ARC picked up at BEA 2010.