Title: The Prison Healer
Series: The Prison Healer #1
Author: Lynette Noni
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: April 13th, 2021 (Clarion Books)
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.
When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.
Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.
But no one has ever survived.
With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.
In the inescapable prison of Zalindov, Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years working as the healer. The sporadic messages from her family on the outside give her hope that she will one day be free. When the Rebel Queen is captured and sent to the prison, Kiva is charged with keeping the critically ill woman alive to face her punishment, Trial by Ordeal, which consists of four impossible elemental challenges. In the midst of all this, she receives a coded message from her family, informing her that they are coming, and to keep the Rebel Queen alive. Knowing that the queen cannot survive the trials, Kiva puts herself forth as her champion to undergo the trials on her behalf. As a deadly and unexplainable illness sweeps through the prison population, conditions inside Zalindov become more dangerous than ever, and between the plague and the Trials, with no sign of the promised rescue, Kiva will have to find a way to survive and save herself.
This book was a very late addition to my 2021 TBR as I hadn’t heard of it until I started seeing rave reviews for it. The setting of a prison is something I’m seeing for the first time – in YA at least – and despite this being a backdrop that perhaps does not have the depth of a full blown fantasy world, it certainly made for an atmospheric one, and it was well developed. The magic system was somewhat vaguely described, but hopefully the sequel will have more explanations, especially given the big reveal at the end of this book as I really want to know more about the elemental magic. Otherwise, this book was well paced and the gripping narrative made this one that would be easy to read in a single sitting.
Kiva was an interesting protagonist, and an intelligent one too, evident in how she protected herself in such a dangerous environment by making herself indispensable as a healer. She was a likeable and determined character, and while I felt there wasn’t much character development for her in this book, her arc is really just getting started. I also thought that the cast of side characters were well written, and though they never get a POV, I was very much invested in their fates right alongside Kiva.
This book did feel a little too long at times though, and it did lag in the middle, especially between the trials. The narrative also spared no details about life inside the prison and some of it should definitely have content warnings. What I found most disappointing surprisingly, were the trials themselves. They should have been the highlight of the book, but I didn’t find them entertaining, possibly because of how extremely undoable they were, but also because after the first one, there was pattern emerging of how Kiva would get through it, giving it a very deus ex machina feel.
The cliffhanger ending was excellent, though it was completely out of the blue without a single bit of foreshadowing that I could identify. The series of revelations preceding it were thoroughly unexpected and the last 10-15% of the book was just twist after twist, making this one of the most action packed endings to a book I’ve read in recent months. The truth behind the mystery illness on the other hand, was more predictable and given the nature certain characters, not entirely surprising either. The ending leaves the characters at a very interesting place, and I’m just glad that the second book is already out so I can pick it up without delay, maybe even finish it in time for book three. Highly recommended!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: