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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Sapphique (Incarceron) - Catherine Fisher When I first read Incarceron, I loved the weird sci-fi dystopia Catherine Fisher had created, with the opulent Outside world, entrenched in the eighteenth-century and the dark, twisted world of Incarceron. I loved the characters, and I really enjoyed the story. Sapphique does what a great sequel ought to do—taking us deeper into the depths of Incarceron itself, and trying to uncover the treachery of Queen Sia.As with the first book, the Incarceron scenes are the best. I like the world that’s created in the Outside, but it feels at times only to put Claudia and Finn in fancy clothes. In book two, we get away from the main wings of Incarceron and closer to its outlying towns, and how radically dangerous it is. And while the first book had some great concepts of how Incarceron creates organic flesh with the halfmen, we finally get to see some really twisted creations. (that scene with the chain gang so creepy) I also love that we get more of the ‘culture’ of Incarceron, with the traveling show Attia and Rix travels with, not to mention, Rix’s mentioning of the various patchbook stories that the prisoners tell. (The one about Ishmael, who gets eaten by a large white rabbit, for example.)Keiro and Attia are my two favorite characters. In the first book, Attia felt like she was just along for the journey, but she really grows into her own in here. I love her unscrupulous nature, and how she manages to manipulate both Rix and Keiro not only to get what she wants, but to prove herself to them. And while a lot of her motivation revolves around Finn and seeing him again, I do like that Attia’s just as conflicted as Keiro about Finn’s reaction.KEIRO YOU BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BASTARD. I know I say that I don’t like douchebag characters, but then you get a character like Keiro, who can be a douchebag, but he manages to be a fantastic character and you see depth. For example, the fantastic moment when Keiro escapes the prison, takes ONE LOOK at Caspar and says “Hi. I want your coat. Give it to me.” OHMYGOD YES. Despite his constant brushing off Attia, and his admonishments that Finn has abandoned them both, I do get the sense that Keiro wants to do what’s right and that he does truly care about Finn and Attia. (Honestly, I just want stories about Keiro’s adventures after this book. Can I please get that? *puppy eyes*) Rix is a really interesting parallel to Jared, and I actually like Rix better, especially as a quasi-mentor figure. He’s ruthless and cunning, but I like that Rix really wants Attia around more, in an odd way. Again, a prequel story for Rix, plzkthx.With all that happens in Incarceron, the court scenes and what’s happening with Finn and Claudia could have felt lacking. There’s intriguing plot twists, but the “Another boy appears claiming to be the real Giles!” feels predictable. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad. It is expanding on a plot point from the first book—Jared’s doubt that Finn is really Giles—and taking through its progression. And what I like is that even Claudia expresses doubt not only about the imposter, but even questions Finn’s recollections. And while it’s teling that ‘Giles’ is an imposter, Fisher does explore Claudia’s motivations for insisting on Finn’s true identity. And personal theory time: Based on what the Warden tells Claudia at the end, I think that Finn is an almagation of Giles and Incarceron’s other prisoners, created as a failsafe. I think there’s parts of him that are Giles, but he’s his own person. This may just be my crazy theory, though.Claudia is still completely fantastic. She’s still committed to helping Finn, still intelligent and perceptive, even at the cost of losing her status and life. Even during her conflict of the “true” Giles, she’s still able to recognize how she’s being manipulated and figure out ways around it. (Like the whole purpose of the Queen’s masked ball—Claudia immediately realizes it’s a trap and figures out how to get herself and Finn out of there without raising suspicion.) I still like Jared, but I wasn’t really into his story in this volume. His illness always felt like a convenient plot point, and I wished that it would have either played a role in the plot or at least gotten an explanation aside from “He’s ill!” And the Sapphique encounter—I –what? I liked that Jared resolves Incarceron’s escape by pretending that he is Sapphique come back and that he takes on that persona to help the prisoners. But—meeting Sapphique. Was it a dream sequence? I wouldn’t be so confused if Jared didn’t have the line of “Sapphique is a part of me” and I thought that meant the glove and DID I MISS SOMETHING BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA.In the same vein, I still like Finn, but a lot of his character conflict feels predictable, especially with the pretender to the throne plot. I do love the detail the court expects Finn to be courtly and princely, despite being in Incarceron for years. Huzzah to detail. And I really love that Finn will do anything to get Attia and Keiro out before Claudia’s own plots—that and Finn calls out Claudia of just using him. It’s a nice touch to Finn’s character, and really shows how untrustworthy he can be.I do have a big issue with the overall plot. While I love that the protocol and the outside world are clearly based on eighteenth-century details (my headcanon puts it in an imitation of the French Court of Versailles—Queen Sia wears a shepardress costume, for crying out loud), they never really make it a clear allegory. Which wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t get an encounter with the peasants as Claudia and Finn are escaping court. And again, wouldn’t be a problem if we got an exploration of those who have to live under an unfair system. The problem is the final linesAnd [Claudia] saw, faint and far, the candlepoints of flame in the cottages of the poor, the hovels where the Prison's wrath and fury had brought no change."Those are stars too,” Finn said quietly.It’s a great ending, don’t get me wrong. And it does imply that that along with Keiro and Attia, Finn and Claudia will be able to survive the decimated world. BUT THE PEASANTS DON’T PLAY A ROLE IN ANY OF THIS. All the uprisings and secret societies are from members of the upper-class. There’s no talk whatsoever of what it means for the general population to survive the real world. I like the ending, and I do really like the book, but it doesn’t feel as weighty as it should be because we don’t have that exploration.But despite the faults, I do really love the Incarceron duology, and Sapphique does achieve the goal of wrapping up Finn and Claudia’s story. I still argue that this is one of the criminally underrated dystopic YA novels out there (despite having a movie option with a horrible choice for Finn) and I highly recommend both parts.