Finn has never known any world except Incarceron. He was born in a cell, with one of the red eyes of the prison staring at him, mocking him. Some prisoners, like his blood brother Keiro, don’t believe that there is a world outside of the prison. But Finn believes, and he is determined to escape–even though the prison itself is alive and determined to stop him. When the violent prison tribe to which Finn belongs kidnaps a woman from a more peaceful tribe, Finn finally has the opportunity to learn something of his past and to gain a crystal key that may somehow unlock the prison. Through the key, he finds that he can communicate with a girl on the outside called Claudia, daughter of the warden of Incarceron. Claudia is betrothed to the heir to the throne in her own world, but she is really just a pawn in a political game between her father and the queen. But when she gets in touch with Finn and realizes that Incarceron is not a utopia as the government claims, she also begins to discover more dark secrets behind the throne. In order to unravel these secrets, Claudia must find a way to rescue Finn from Incarceron before her wedding day arrives.
Somewhere between science fiction and fantasy, Catherine Fisher’s dark dystopia will likely appeal to teens who enjoyed series like The Hunger Games and The Looking Glass Wars. The storytelling is gritty and fast-paced and the world of the prison is intricately imagined. Incarceron is followed by a sequel, Sapphique.
Read alikes for Incarceron include Finnikin of the Rock, The Looking Glass Wars, Reckless, The Replacement, The Hunger Games, and Ship Breaker. If you like dark dystopian novels, you may also be interested in this booklist.