Incarceron 2007

Hodder ISBN 978-0-340-89360-9



Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.
Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appals her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires.
One inside, one outside
But both imprisoned.
Imagine a war that has hollowed the moon, seven skullrings that contain souls, a flying ship and a wall at the world’s end.
Imagine the unimaginable.
Imagine Incarceron.


I wanted to write a book about a prison. An extraordinary, vast, talking, dreaming living edifice, which contains villages and forests as well as cells and corridors. Whose Prisoners can never escape, so that’s all they can think about, and they tell stories of a legendary man called Sapphique, who once escaped, to keep themselves hoping. Incarceron is a dark and violent place, an experiment which has gone wrong.  When Finn wakes up in there with no memory he’s sure he doesn’t fit, that he came from outside. But no one does, as his oathbrother Keiro tells him scornfully.

Outside in the beautiful, golden 18th century world of the Realm, where time is forbidden, Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, though her father never goes there and she has no idea where the prison is. But she has to marry Prince Caspar, and she hates him, so she breaks into her father’s study. There she finds the crystal key..

Incarceron and its sequel are certainly the most complex books I’ve written. They were a wild roller-coaster ride of fun, invention, despair and worry. Sometimes I thought I would never get through it; other times the book seemed to write itself, the characters took over, things happened I hadn’t even foreseen. I had a really mixed bunch of characters, the austere, dangerous Warden; feisty Claudia, arrogant, vain Keiro; Finn who never quite tells the truth. And Jared, Claudia’s gentle, clever tutor. There are lots of relationships of various sorts going on here which I tried to imply more than state. Also there are a few mid-blowing twists in the story that seriously jolt the reader into amazement. At least I hope they do!

Read an extract….



Amanda Craig, in The Times, writes:

‘One novel stands out above all others; Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron (Hodder, £5.99/£5.69). This thrilling novel about people trying to escape from a living, sentient prison in which they are constantly spied-upon is a modern version of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, though given a better plot, people we care about and a prose style honed by decades of writing poetry.

Its imaginative scale and gob-smacking finale make it one of the best fantasy novels written for a long time. Long after it’s finished your child will be asking questions about the nature of reality, trust and good Government as well as enjoying the heroic quest that only children’s fiction now bothers to give readers.’

‘a deliciously dark and scary ride.’
Nicholas Tucker, The Independent

‘… imaginative, rich in texture and vividly realised. Catherine Fisher writes with consummate skill and depth of feeling.’
The Bookseller

‘A crisp, quick-moving narrative and fully fleshed out characters will keep readers hooked’
Publisher’s Weekly

‘… one of the most skilled and original writers currently working in young adult fantasy’
New Welsh Review