SAPPHIQUE (Incarceron #2)
Releases December 28, 2010
Received from publisher for review
For so long Finn dreamed of escaping the sentient prison he and his oathbrother Keiro battled on a daily basis, knowing all the while they might not ever reach what lies beyond it's ever-changing walls. With the help of Claudia, a young girl from Outside, Finn has finally gotten his taste of freedom, only it's sweetness is not quite as potent as he imagined.
Things on the Outside aren't much better than the brutal reality of Incarceron, and while Finn knew how to battle the prison, the world of politics and the social etiquette expected of him as the long lost heir to the throne is baffling. Add in the guilt of leaving Keiro behind, and his dream has turned into a nightmare.
To make matters worse, a new young man has stepped forward claiming to be the lost prince, and he has the memories Finn has long since forgotten, though visions of his former life still plague him. While Finn deals with a potential usurper, Keiro and companion Attia try to find a way out of Incarceron on their own, realizing it's watching their every move but unaware of the prison's own plans for escape. Soon the separate worlds in which Finn and Keiro reside will collide, allegiances will be severed, and nothing for either reality will ever be the same.
The sequel and conclusion to Incarceron, Sapphique continues to build on the astounding world introduced previously, a world where surety is replaced with possibility and concrete knowledge with ambiguity. We straddle two radically different environments while reading, both which should be pristine, unblemished paradises where virtue and magnanimity flourish, but have instead been infected by greed, ambition, and the desire to rule no matter how small the territory under their thumbs. In this world, complacency doesn't exist and the most basic human desire of wanting rather than needing is prominent. The want of power. The want of control. The constant, nagging want to acquire new things without heed to the consequences of such inclinations. These intriguing musings and profound questions regarding our own natures are coupled with a world of limitless creativity, a combination that holds us in a fascinated stupor we're in no hurry to shake off.
Just as with Incarceron, Sapphique is predominantly story and world-driven, the characters distanced from us and seemingly devoid of deep emotion as they've been forced to survive in separate but equally stifling worlds that have stripped them of anything other than an instinct to survive. Because of the nature of the worlds in which they live, the cold and aloof demeanor is understandable and, in Incarceron, was easily explained away in that context. However, in this second installment, the lack of an emotional connection is a more significant barrier, one we struggle to traverse but are ultimately unable to do so. Where we had a spark of life from Finn previously, one that could have guided us to the attachment for which we so desperately search in this book, it has now been thoroughly doused by the guilt of his escape and his decision to leave his friends behind with what he's quickly realizing may have been an empty promise of return. The shiny newness of the world, though it still holds us transfixed, is unable to satisfy us completely, and there is a noticeable vacancy where our welcome entanglement with Finn, Claudia and the remaining characters should be.
Additionally, where the open-ended nature of the conclusion of Incarceron wasn't bothersome since we knew a sequel was coming, the questions we are left with at the end of this story are far more troubling. Not only is the end open to interpretation, which is absolutely fine, it's crowded with blatant and perplexing enigmas in a world already blanketed in the endless blackness of possibility. Every door we walk through to search for answers transforms into a false passageway, a conjured illusion to keep us guessing, and we realize our questions in fact have no answers and no solid form to be revealed, they only change shape along with the prison itself to present us with a different facet for examination, but still one that yields no absolutes. Every character we meet is peering out at us through a mask, and beneath it is yet another mask, this one more detailed and convincing than the last as their identities, motivations, and allegiances are more difficult to decipher than ever. Though allowing us to form our own conclusions is welcome, a bit more information and just a couple of answers would have been appreciated after such an arduous journey.
The world of Incarceron and Sapphique is truly breathtaking; a marvel of imagination and creativity that seems to make the depths of our own minds shallow in comparison. Though this second and final installment is not quite as strong as its predecessor, it's still an intriguing read that raises powerful questions and delights us with fantastical elements we won't soon forget.
The fabulous Sandy over at Pirate Penguin's Reads has generously donated her ARC of Sapphique and offered it as a giveaway to accompany my review, so a huge thank you to Sandy! To enter, just leave a comment with your email address so I have a way to contact you if you win. Contest will run through December 30th after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Because I already have this ARC in hand, the contest is US only, so sorry to all my international readers, but stay tuned for my New Year's giveaway January 3-9 as it will be international! Good luck everyone!