Sapphique by Catharine FisherBy Catherine Fisher [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Now that Finn has Escaped, he thought everything would be different, but the Realm outside is no paradise. He’s supposed to be a long lost prince, but doesn’t remember anything about his past — and out of nowhere, another boy has appeared, claiming to be the very same prince. With no way to prove his claim, he, Claudia, and the scholar Jared can only hope to restore communication with Incarceron and find the missing Warden.

Things inside Incarceron aren’t stable, either. Attia and Keiro realize Finn either can’t or won’t get them out, and search for their own Escape. And even Incarceron itself is changing, seeking an Escape… but how can a prison escape itself? And exactly who, or what, is Sapphique?

This is the end of the series, and I can’t discuss it without spoilers, so beware! Uncut spoilers under the cut.

I absolutely loved Incarceron when I read it last year, and was very much looking forward to the story’s conclusion, so I picked up Sapphique pretty quickly after it came out in the U.S. In the end, I simultaneously enjoyed and was disappointed by it.

The big problem, for me, was that in the rush to explain and resolve what was happening with the world, all of the characters got lost. I really loved the worldbuilding in Incarceron: it was a creative dystopia with hints of both scifi and fantasy, intricate and exciting. It elevated the book from a good story to a great one, by playing a major role in the story. It was an antagonistic force in and of itself, another element for the characters to overcome — but it was a story about characters, about Finn and Claudia and their struggles. The problem is that in Sapphique, the worldbuilding totally takes over. The book is about the world, its backstory and the ramifications of things that happened generations ago, and everything that happens to the actual characters feels like windowdressing.

Case in point: the plot with Finn and the Pretender. It ought to be a big deal. There’s a fight over the throne, the evil, scheming queen is going to kill Claudia, there’s a civil war. That all sounds dramatic in theory, but when you get down to it, it does absolutely nothing. None of that in any way builds towards the book’s actual climax, and the climax renders the whole thing moot. The queen just dies. The war just stops. That doesn’t happen because Claudia and Finn outsmart them or outfight them, it happens because of stuff that Incarceron itself does, which they have no control over and didn’t even know was going to happen.

The characters inside the prison do a bit better than those outside. At least Keiro and Attia are working towards something, as they try to figure out what to do with the Sapphique’s glove. Though neither of them exactly makes things happen, at least it doesn’t feel like their whole storyline is futile — and they’re a pretty likeable duo. (Well, Attia is likeable; Keiro is kind of a terrible person, but darned charismatic and way more fun to read about than, say, Claudia.)

Also, it just reads as a weird, weird choice to me that in a young adult novel, featuring four teen protagonists… the only one who figures things out and directly causes anything to happen in the wizened mentor. I like Jared fine as a character, and at least he’s got a bit of depth to him, but I was seriously let down that out of everyone in the book, it wasn’t Claudia or Finn who solves things at the end. Nope, Jared does it. Seriously?

Basically the worldbuilding (with one caveat I explain in the next paragraph) was great, but Sapphique was lacking a peg to hang all that coolness on. Without a driving story like Finn and Claudia had in the first book, it all felt like a bit of a mess.

As for that world building caveat, I was pretty baffled by what happened with the Realm. I didn’t have the impression from the first book that the buildings themselves were illusions, but okay, I can buy that some kind of super high tech made the ruins functional, so they (and other random gadgets and whatnot) fell to pieces as soon as the power was gone. But I also thought that things like swords and banners and whatnot had been made “in Era,” meaning by peasants with no technology, the same way they would have in the 1800s. So how come all of those crumpled to dust, too? It was a relatively small thing, but it really baffled me and threw me out of the story at a pretty intense moment.

So with all that, like I said, I still enjoyed the book. Like Incarceron, it was well paced and exciting, and certainly picked up as it went on. As I mentioned, Attia and Keiro were enjoyable, and so was Finn (though Claudia was pretty unpleasant). The world inside Incarceron itself was still very cool, interesting and twisted, and the whole concept of the series is unique in the worlds of YA and dystopias. Those good things weren’t quite enough to save the book as a whole, though, so it earns three and a half cupcakes, though I’d say the two books taken together are a decent four.


    2 Responses to “Sapphique”

    1. vivienne says:

      well i just finish incarceron and loved it, but i didnt really want to waste too much time reading the sequel…so i came on this website to find out how the sequel ends…couls some one plz tell me…i have like 20 books to read this summer and i unfortunately cant waste any time reading the sequel…plz can someone leev a comment…thnx ahead of time!!! 😀

    2. […] Sapphique by Catherine Fisher I snapped this up as soon as I saw it in a store (the first non-e book I’ve bought in months) and I really wanted to love it — but I didn’t. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find it satisfying, either. Details at Active Voice. […]

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