Review: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
The book is the sequel to “Incanrceron” ,
In this part the alternating story lines between the Realm and Incarceron are much more distinct. Finn, an Incarceron prisoner who had escaped with some help of Claudia, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter, tries to get his kingdom back. Claudia believes that Finn is no other than Prince Giles, the lost son of the late king, abducted and imprisoned by his step-mother, queen Sia, in order to make room for her own progeny. John Arlex, the Warden of Incarceron, having tricked the queen into presenting Finn as the heir to the throne, removed himself temporarily from the scene. Now, his daughter is on her own to prove her point and make the rest accept Finn. Her belief is not widely shared to say the least of it, not even by Finn himself. Even Jared Sapient, her terminally ill tutor, doubts it, although he does what he can to re-open the portal to Incarceron and find some proof. Courtiers and aristocrats simply shun the newly-found prince as he is moody, taciturn and has no manners to speak of. What’s more, Finn himself seems to doubt this new persona more and more, as his memory hasn’t returned completely and his seizures and blackouts continue. Apparently the Realm is not going to be handed down to him (if it is really his) on a sliver platter. Apart from that, it turns out the world outside the prison is hardly a Paradise Finn had been expecting. Has he stepped out of the frying pan into the fire? Queen Sia hasn’t been idle either – once defeated, she is hell-bend on setting everything right again, staging a show with her own prince Giles as the main character. With two heirs apparent to choose from, who is an impostor and who is the real thing? Even Claudia has her moments of doubt. Is there any way of finding the truth?
Meanwhile inside the prison Finn’s oathbrother, Keiro, who, like Attia, Finn’s friend, was left behind, struggles to find his own way out. He believes Finn has forgotten about the oath and won’t help them (or won’t be let help them) to escape so he is after a mysterious artifact, the Glove of Sapphique, which, allegedly, might allow him to get the upper hand over Incarceron and be released. The rumour has it that the Glove is in the possession of a prisoner called Rix, a con artist and a vagabond, who travels with his troupe all over the prison to earn a living. Keiro makes Attia join that troupe and find out as much as she can about the Glove and its owner. They are running out of time, though, because Incarceron itself decided to abandon its prisoners, create a body and run away from it all – it’s been feeling imprisoned without glimpsing the outside world. Unfortunately it means nothing more or less than death of all the people, inhabiting Incarceron. All the prison needs is the Glove. As Keiro doesn’t give a damn what happens to the others, it’s Attia’s job to make sure the Glove won’t fall into wrong hands. Will the Warden help her with that dangerous task? Whose hands are good and whose are wrong anyway?
Undoubtedly the storyline is a strong point of this series. The same verbal sleights of hand and creative story elements that made “Incarceron” so exciting a read are back in Sapphique; the authoress populates the prison with sentient beings that are unique and original. Nothing is as easy as it seems at the beginning of this dystopian tale and the main characters undergo huge changes to achieve their goals. I must admit this was one angst-filled novel, definitely darker than the first part but I liked it. The pace of narration was very quick, with enough twists and turns to keep you glued to the book right to the end.
My concern is whether or not this is the real end of the story. I mean, it does resolve satisfactorily for all the main characters, but some of my questions remained untouched. I mainly think here about supporting characters like Queen Sia, the evil woman of the series. A powerful baddie should have been presented better in my view. Who and what was she? How did she manage to marry a king and become a queen in the first place? What gave her so much power and skills? Why did she decide to imprison rather than kill prince Giles? None of these was answered and it’s a pity. I also feel there should be said more about John Arlex and his motives – why did he choose to return to Incarceron after all, knowing fully well the system was unstable?
Apart from that, I was expecting more character development; for example at the end of the book I still wasn’t completely sure what was the relationship between Jared and Claudia – was he a father-figure or a love-interest or maybe both? The same can be asked about Finn/Giles and Claudia – were they trully in love or were they just friends, allies and future married couple? I think (and hope) Ms. Fisher left an opening for a possible third book… that’s my opinion.
ETA: The eyes of the Warden are still gray.
If you haven’t read Incarceron and Sapphique yet, start the series now and you won’t regret it. It is not flawless but it remains good and imaginative nevertheless.