Author: Catherine Fisher
Page Count: Dial Books
Publisher: 450 pages
Genre: science fiction, dystopian, young adult, fantasy
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review
50 words or less: The conclusion to the story initially laid out in Incarceron, where the world is full of gilded phony nonsense, a massive prison is hiding in plain sight, and the wheels of revolution are threatening to roll over everyone and everything.
*Please note: there are spoilers aplenty for the first book, Incarceron, in this review. Couldn't be helped. Sorry!*
If Incarceron was an unexpected hit for me, then Sapphique had the dubious task of having to follow up its predecessor. I sometimes feel bad for sequels, especially ones that have really big shoes to fill; needless to say, sometimes high expectations aren't always fair ones. I'm happy to say that Sapphique measured up to and exceeded my expectations across the board.
Sapphique picks up pretty much right where Incarceron leaves off; Finn has escaped Incarceron and been welcomed to court as the long-missing and presumed dead Prince Giles. Claudie is plotting and scheming right from the first page; as a longtime member of the royal court she understands how precarious Finn's situation is and works to shore it up at every opportunity, with the help of Jared, her tutor. The last thing Finn wants to be doing is playing at being a prince, even though he is one; his thoughts are constantly turning towards Keiro and those he left behind in Incarceron and how he isn't really fulfilling his oath to bring them to freedom as well.
The story is told in alternating sections and from multiple points of view. First, we're with Finn, then with Claudia, then inside Incarceron with Attiya (check her name) and Keiro. We get a sense of the broader scope of the world that serves as the setting for this story and get to know what each character is going through and each character's motivations for their actions, which keeps the plot moving at a good pace and doesn't let the story or the lessons therein get bogged down in adolescent angst.
The same verbal sleights of hand and creative story elements that made Incarceron so much fun to read are back in full force in Sapphique; the author populates Incarceron with creatures and characters that are unique and memorable while making the details vivid enough for the unusual settings to be clear in the reader's mind. Additionally, we learn that plots and schemes are afoot in the kingdom and that Finn has unwittingly stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak; clearly Protocol has not served the purpose for which it was intended, and the ending of the story was one that, while I did see it coming, I didn't fully perceive how it would play out until it was happening.
Speaking of the ending, and this part might be a little spoilery so avert your eyes if you're so inclined, I really appreciated that the ending wasn't "and they all lived happily ever after forever and ever and rode off into the sunset on the backs of unicorns to eat truffles all the days of their lives." No, the ending is stark, and bleak, and hopeful all at the same time. There are problems to be solved and issues to be resolved and nobody has any idea how to do any of it, but there's a sense of purpose and of peace that hasn't been there in the novel before; the truth about the world the characters live in has finally come out; their places in that world are yet to be decided, and that's okay. All too often I read books where everything is wrapped up with ribbons and bows and there are no issues left unresolved or stones left unturned, and sometimes that works; it wouldn't have worked here and I'm glad it wasn't attempted.
Anyway, if you haven't read Incarceron yet, I definitely recommend you give it a try and start there; if you did read and enjoy it, then you'll definitely like Sapphique as well.
Overall Grade: A
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