Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Ang init! Which means “It’s so hot!” in Filipino. Just had to mention that because it’s really hot nowadays. I can’t believe I’m wishing for the rainy season to start because it’s such a hassle to go around the city when it rains but I think it’s better to have rain than this unbearable heat – high 30s in Celsius (high 90s in Fahrenheit) and very, very humid. You’ll start sweating even right after taking a shower. Now that I have that out of my system, on to the review.

Sapphique is the sequel to Incarceron, which I recently read and reviewed. Warning: This post contains spoilers for Incarceron so if you haven’t read that book, don’t proceed in reading this review. Even the summary has spoilers for the first book.

Here’s the summary from Catherine Fisher’s website:

Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don’t even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.

If you click on the link here and look up my review of Incarceron, you’ll see that I really enjoyed reading that book. So it should come as no surprise that I had high hopes for its sequel. Sadly, I was disappointed. My friend Moses, who sent me copies of the duology, already mentioned that the sequel isn’t that good but of course, I was still curious. The characters are still the same but Claudia and Finn aren’t the focus of the story anymore. The point of view shifts from Claudia, Finn, Jared to Attia and Keiro. Also, there were some new characters introduced to the story such as Rix.

Finn was able to escape Incarceron but he just went to a different kind of prison. People Outside are still trapped, albeit not in a physical prison, but in lives constricted to following the Protocol. They had to follow the rules governing the seventeenth century and how people lived their lives back then. Outside isn’t the paradise that everyone in Incarceron dreams about. Finn also has to deal with his memory loss. He may be Prince Giles but he doesn’t have much to prove it. Finn’s troubles don’t end there, he also has to worry about his political enemies in court – those who had him sent to Incarceron in the first place and the ones who don’t believe that he really is the lost prince. Claudia has her own set of problems – her father destroyed the Portal and trapped himself in Incarceron and her beloved master Jared’s sickness is getting worse. Meanwhile, Attia and Keiro struggle to find ways to escape and Incarceron grows restless: the prison wants to escape just as much as its inmates.

The changing points of view can be frustrating at times because it would change right after something big happens. A single chapter can contain scenes from various points of view. Like Incarceron, Sapphique is just as fast-paced and also riddled with political intrigue. However, I didn’t feel like the sequel lived up to the first book. I think Charlotte’s comment in my post about Incarceron is applicable to Sapphique:

“There was just so much happening, and I was so busy trying to keep track of things that I never relaxed into it… and I never even finished reading the sequel. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe when I’m older.”

Also, there were a couple of plot threads that were just left hanging. There were too many questions and not enough answers. I was expecting more character development and maybe the shifting narration just wasn’t able to delve deeper into each character. I would still recommend that people who’ve read the first one to read this sequel because you can’t help but be curious and Sapphique would give you closure, so to speak. I can see why others would like this but I echo Charlotte in saying that I guess this just wasn’t for me.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I’ve been waiting to read Incarceron ever since I first saw it mentioned in Sounis, the LJ community for Megan Whalen Turner fans. I’ve gotten a lot of great recommendations from members of Sounis and the premise of this was really interesting. I’m glad my friend Moses, who lives in Australia, agreed to get the UK paperback editions for me because I like this edition better and at least the sequel, Sapphique, is already out in the UK edition. He read it before passing it on to me and when I asked what he thought of it, he said that it seems like my kind of book.

Here’s the summary from Catherine Fisher’s website, click on the link to see her inspiration for the book:

Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.

Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appalls her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires.

One inside, one outside

But both imprisoned.

Imagine a war that has hollowed the moon, seven skullrings that contain souls, a flying ship and a wall at the world’s end.

Imagine the unimaginable.

Imagine Incarceron.

After reading the book, I’m still considering how I feel about it. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it but I’m not sure if it falls under my favorites list. I might give the sequel a try before I decide. Anyway, the premise of Incarceron is interesting. I admit, I’ve already seen a similar premise back when I read The City of Ember so it’s not new but I have to say that Incarceron is much better. I can’t even remember the details of The City of Ember. Plus Incarceron (the prison) is a sentient being and not just a structure built underground with walls to keep people in.

The start of the book is a little confusing because it dives right into the story but give it a couple of chapters and you’ll be properly engaged. The points of view switch from Finn, the boy inside Incarceron who’s convinced he’s from Outside even if he has no memory of it, and Claudia, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter. I love the world that Catherine Fisher created. Incarceron was created with the goal of letting people live in a contained, perfect world but it backfired. And while there are problems inside the prison, people outside are trapped in a different way – the law requires that they give up modern conveniences and pretend that they’re stuck in the seventeenth century. Both Claudia and Finn think that the other has it better and they both want to know more about the other person’s environment. But the book isn’t just about Claudia and Finn and how they unravel the mysteries of each other’s worlds. As with all the books that I enjoy reading, a huge aspect of my enjoyment rests on the characters and Incarceron doesn’t disappoint. There’s a cold-blooded queen, a spoiled prince, a wise but sickly tutor, a mysterious oathbrother, a slave turned loyal follower and an inmate consumed with the dream to get out.

Incarceron is an action-packed book filled with political intrigue, plot twists and turns, fascinating characters and a unique setting. It can be read on its own but it will leave you wanting more as there are still some plot threads that need to be resolved. I’m glad I have the sequel on hand because I’m interested to see where the story goes.