Goodreads summary for Incarceron:
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 ...
My Rating (for both books): ****
I enjoyed this series, but it took me a little while to get into it. It was darker and stranger than I was expecting. And in fact, everything about this plot is unexpected. There were some fabulously huge surprises at the end of book one that I really enjoyed. But it took that to make me want to read the second book.
I started it expecting to love it because I've seen such rave reviews everywhere. It sounded like exactly my kind of book, so I was surprised by how much of a chore it was to read it. I never wanted to and so it took me forever to read this series.
I kept waiting and waiting for Claudia and Finn to discover each other, but it took a solid first half (almost three quarters) of Incarceron for it to happen. I hate it when I come to expect something from the synopsis, but then it takes forever to happen.
I didn't like Claudia for the longest time. She's so stuck-up and bossy and haughty and rude to everyone it takes probably until the second book before she shows redeeming features. At least in my opinion.
I still gave the whole series four stars. Why?
I loved Finn. What an amazing character. I was hanging on throughout the whole series, because I was completely devoted to him and desperate to find out the truth and what his fate would be. Finn is likeable and full of depth. And there are a whole host of other truly interesting characters, like the Warden of Incarceron (Claudia's father - NOT likeable, but very fascinating), and Jared (Claudia's tutor and friend), and Keiko (Finn's blood-brother - was never really sure which side he was on). One thing I thought the series needed more of? Comic relief. It was so serious and the whole time the mood was dark and heavy. I think a little laughter would have balanced it nicely. Again - totally my opinion.
And then there's the plot. I'll admit that once I finally got into this, I raced through. I had to find out what was going to happen next and how it would all unfold in the end. I love that the series was only two books long and that both books were out when I started it. The story is a real mind-bender in places and I enjoyed it.
Recommended for: fans of dystopian fantasy.