Sapphique (Incarceron #2) by Catherine Fisher
September 6, 2011; Firebird
Check out my review of Incarceron for an introduction to this series!
Finn has escaped Incarceron, but Keiro and Attia are still Inside. Outside, things are not at all what Finn expected - and both Finn's and Claudia's very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court that he is the lost prince. Back Inside, Keiro and Attia are on the hunt for Sapphique's glove, which legend says he used to escape. In order to find it, they must battle the prison itself. Incarceron has built itself a body and it wants to go Outside - just like Sapphique, the only prisoner Incarceron ever loved. (courtesy of Amazon)
With Incarceron and Sapphique, Catherine Fisher created a marvelously rich, complex story that bridges dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. It's quite an accomplishment.
Like Incarceron, Sapphique switches back and forth between the Court and the Prison. We get to know the characters much better, especially Jared, Keiro, and Attia. The Prison and the Court are also bigger characters. We understand better how the Prison has a personality of its own and how the Court is really one big illusion. We also learn more about Sapphique, the god-like prophet who is worshiped by the people of Incarceron. Each chapter starts with a little epigraph of Sapphique's legend and Keiro and Attia essentially follow the journey that Sapphique supposedly took.
The characters in Sapphique are really not all that likeable. I admire the author for not bowing to the pressure for nice, sweet characters. A lot of people were turned off by the characters, but I had no trouble related to them, even Keiro. Fisher does a good job of showing their motivations, fears, and hopes. Keiro in particular seems evil, but you can see his underlying desperation to get out of Incarceron, his anger at being betrayed by Finn (he believes), and his fear of being a half-man. Claudia continues to act like a spoiled brat, but I thought her personality was believable given the pressures being placed upon her and always having to watch her back. Finn too seems frustrating, because he doesn't shape up to his princely image as quick as one would hope, but in reality who would? He acts realistically for a boy as damaged as he is.
There's so much going on in this book. You have the battle to decide whether Finn is Prince Giles or whether the title belongs to a new interloper. You have Jared trying to repair the portal and also hoping to treat his illness. You have the Warden stuck in Incarceron. You have Keiro and Attia making a long journey to try to get out of Incarceron. The book switches back and forth between different stories quickly - the sections are often only a few pages. Fisher does a good job at having enough action that the book doesn't drag.
My main complaint about this book is one that I also had in Incarceron, only it was magnified in Sapphique. The book is so complicated that I felt like I didn't entirely get it. You could take that as a compliment - the book is so rich that to be properly appreciated it really needs at least two readings. And that would be fine if I loved the book enough or had enough time to devote to re-reading Sapphique, but I don't. While I love really strong stories that require me to think, I also like being able to relax and let the book do the work for me. Sapphique was sometimes too much work.
Overall, Sapphique was a great conclusion to Incarceron. I liked that it tied up loose ends, but still left a few things open. Perhaps there will eventually be a third book. There are a lot of places Fisher could still go with this world, but I also feel like things were concluded well enough that it doesn't need a third book to finish off the plot.