I'm thinking about a short novel series (a trilogy or a tetralogy) which I read in my school's library around 2012. It is targeted to teenagers or young adults. I read it in French pocket format but I don't know whether it was a translation.

The main focus of the series is a supernatural prison. I recall mazes, chasms and a room guarded by a bird-like magical beast, though this may not be 100% accurate. The ambiance inside the prison is gloomy, and people fighting or dying is common. What every prisoner has in mind is fear and survival. There are no cells, rather open spaces, and few to no human guards, because the prison is already a fortress on its own: it really doesn't need them. For many escaping is an absurd notion.

One of the protagonists is a young boy inside the prison; another is a young girl on the outside, the daughter of the prison's head. I think it happens in modern times (say, at least 1850) but of the outside I recall very little. They communicate several times to try to solve two problems: locating the prison and getting the boy out of it. Apparently no one outside, except the main prison staff, even knows where it is.

Around the end of the story, they discover that the prison, which they thought was buried deep under the ground, is actually a tiny cube attached to a bracelet around the prison head's wrist (which makes the escape even more difficult). I remember the boy and a few other prisoners manage to get out at the very end of the story.

I guess the ambiance of the prison and the twist about the cube are the most memorable aspects of this story.

Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith is a very close match. To be honest, I cannot rule it out, but I didn't find any mention of the cube, and I definitely didn't read anything following the escape (then again, only three of the five books seem to have been translated to French).

  • 1
    Hi there! :) there is already a loot of good info in there, but maybe you could take a look at this guide to see if that triggers any more memories you could edit in your question? For instance, do you remember what the cover looked like?
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 12:46
  • Hi! To be honest I wrote the question while reading the guide, it helped a lot. I added some plot details, but about the book itself, I'm afraid I don't have any more information. Covers from Escape from Furnace don't bring up anything.
    – lephe
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


Incarceron #1 (2007) by Catherine Fisher maybe? (published in France in 2010)

English cover for Incarceron French cover for Incarceron

(first: original cover; second: French cover)

From Goodreads:

Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons.

A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ...

As of now, there are two books in the series (Incarceron and Sapphique).

From this review:

The ending of this story is strange because at the end of this book Finn leaves Incarceron, but that's not what makes this weird. What makes this story weird is you find out that this entire prison is in a small cube on the pocket watch of the warden. This is so strange because it means they some how made an entire world literately so small they have to basically be teleported to this prison with only one way out but with the key now inside the cube.

So, not a bracelet, but quite close to it.

Eventually found with the Google query roman prison labyrinthe "fille du directeur" (novel jail "warden's daughter")

The whole search process was detailed in chat. The story takes too much space to be included in the present answer, but if you're curious about the reasoning and the behind-the-scenes, here's the transcript!

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    Amazing! That's a perfect match. Looks like I have room for improvement in Google searching. :)
    – lephe
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:14
  • 2
    @lephe happy to help! :) here's a guide of some Google search tips if you're interested. In terms of story-id, I chose to search specifically for "fille du directeur" because that sounded like something that would come up often in review/summaries (knowing French helps too, agreed). Some other keywords I took out of the query when the matches where too close to the movie Cube. Just some behind-the-scenes info if you're interested :)
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:22
  • That was pretty instructive! I appreciate your help, you just made my day. ^^
    – lephe
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:48
  • @lephe always happy to share tips :) if you want the more kinda complete story, I suggest we move to chat. Other than that, hope you stay, and good (re)reading! :p
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 13:54
  • 1
    +1 for the alternative texts on your pictures alone. When behind a paranoid corporate proxy that's so much of a nice change, I just wanted to thank you! :) Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 15:59

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