By Cynthia Ayala
Finn has escaped Incarceron, but the memories of the prison haunt him, and the idea that his friends and brother are still trapped feeds his inner guilt. But his life on the Outside has been just as hazardous as the inside where his very identity is questions forcing him to question his own sanity.
This is definitely a very mature novel for middle grade students but it deals with so much and the style of written makes it easy to understand across the age groups. There are two worlds present in the book but they function together even though they are separated by a mystical gateway. One lives off the back of the other, the hierarchy who has decided to live in an ancient monarchy to benefit themselves while also using their positions to bend the rules and use technology for their own purposes while the people around them starve. Moreover, in Incarceron, where the prison has taken on a ruthless personality of its own, its own power building the illusion for those that live outside.
This is a story about right and wrong, combining both archaic systems and a technologically advanced prison together in this novel to evaluate a system of hierarchy, how lower class and middle class suffer at the behest of the rich and power. It is powerfully written because Finn was rescued to end the regime, to bring democracy to the world, to help the people escape their sad lives. Because of that it is thoughtful and provoking, it makes the reader think about equality, think about the people in the world that suffer because the rich want to keep being rich while the poor just get poorer. These people are forced to live in squalid conditions because the law says using technology is forbidden, that peace exists because everyone chose to live in the past.
That is the revolutionary point of the text, the moment that makes it capture the reader. These characters want change, and they are willing to fight for it, to pave the way for progression and fight the regressive nature of the world. These characters reflect that idea, making them engaging. That being said, they are hard to relate to because while their actions and personal make them engaging, they come off as stiff. While this works to have them as living reflections of the story as a whole, it does make them hard to attach to. However, some of those moments where they break, where they fight one another, and those moments when they just look at each other, those powerful moments give the characters life. They highlight who these characters are, and as they change and grow, so does the world around them.
It’s a magical story not just because of the meaning, but the reflective way the characters are structured and the way the worlds play off one another, raising the tension as everything begins to break, makes it both mature and easy to understand for all ages. (★★★☆☆ | B+)