Narrator: Jeanette Illidge
Series: The Prison Healer #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on 13 April 2021
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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"Lynette Noni is a masterful storyteller. A must-read for any fantasy lover!" -- SARAH J. MAAS, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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. From bestselling author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Sabaa Tahir.
Before I get into a review of this book, the first thing I want to say is that if you start to read it, PLEASE finish it! Do not DNF. It is worth finishing.
So this book.
I enjoyed just about everything about this book.
I loved the main character, Kiva. Sometimes I feel that authors can’t really write genuinely selfless characters. They come across as sanctimonious, or motivated by the wrong reasons. But Kiva, despite her job helping her survive a prison, genuinely cares for everyone in it, even those who hate her and wish her harm. She genuinely has a healer’s heart and I really liked that about her.
I also liked the secondary supporting characters: the friendly newcomer Jarren, stoic guard Nari, cute kid assistant Tipp. (If I am spelling any of the names wrong it’s because I listened to this on audiobook so I’m just guessing how the names are spelt). I could see how the characters who got to know Kiva really liked her. I did, too.
The book felt really well-plotted and paced, and the worldbuilding was also nicely done and interesting. There was politics within the prison, and Kiva had to deal with being thoroughly unliked because of her cushy job. I was pleased when we didn’t just stay within Kiva’s infirmary but got to see other aspects of the prison and the world around it. I enjoyed the secondary characters, and the writing itself flowed very nicely. The audiobook narration was pleasant to listen to, with the narrator providing different voices for different characters and a good show of emotion.
My main problem with this book revolves around a so-called law: the Warden claims that the Trial by Ordeal is a written law. It’s a weird ass law. View Spoiler »Not only does it give two weeks to recover from each ordeal, which coincidentally happens to be the PERFECT amount of time Kiva needs to recover, but the Warden claims he can’t interfere – by law – with the trials. He can’t assist Kiva. Yet the ordeals themselves are not written into the law, so he can basically make them up and they can be anything vaguely related to the element of the week. And even though the Warden can’t interfere, apparently other people can with little consequence. I would have thought the interrupted trials were forfeited and Kiva would have to do them again. What are the consequences for those characters interfering with Kiva’s trial? Why aren’t they removed while Kiva attempts it again? But no, that’s not the law. The Warden BY LAW can’t interrupt/assist, but apparently other people can.
So my main question is not why the law is so weird and conveniently written so that Kiva can be assisted, but instead is this: why is the Warden so upset when other people provide assistance to Kiva? Is it against the law to interferer or assist, or not?
If it is against the law, why are there no consequences, forfeiting, or having to re-attempt the trial until she completes it by herself or dies?
If it is not against the law, why is the Warden so upset with people interfering?
Warden: “I can’t interfere, it’s against the law.”
*other people interfere*
Warden: *shrugs and allows it*
« Hide Spoiler
Zalindov is basically a death camp more than a prison. No one leaves. Except if you survive the Trials by Ordeal, which are only forced upon the worst kind of criminal. Those happen to be… royalty? So… magical? And magic helps you survive the trials because they are based on the same magic system as the royalty?
So basically it’s law to release the most dangerous criminals if they prove they are magical enough to survive, I mean you’d think once they walked free they’d be a threat to the ruling royal family but apparently not? WHY DOES THIS NOT MAKE SENSE.
Also the third thing I had a problem with was the ‘spectacle’ of the whole thing. View Spoiler »The Warden wanted all the prisoners to witness the trials and thought gathering them all in one place – literally thousands of prisoners – would be a good idea. But in three of the four trials there was nothing to witness but PLENTY of opportunity for someone else to assist. The trial by fire was locking Kiva in a windowless box. The trial by water was dropping her into water so deep no one could see her. The trial by earth was sending her into a tunnel. What exactly are the prisoners witnessing? Did the Warden not think that gathering so many together in one space would be an issue? I guess most of my problem with this book is the Warden. « Hide Spoiler
Apart from those question I couldn’t stop thinking about, my absolute favourite part of the book was the number of twists written into it. I was fully suspicious of a number of them, but one of them caught me by surprise: that’s not to say that the groundwork wasn’t there, because it totally was, and it all actually made perfect sense when I looked back. I just didn’t quite get it because I was distracted by other stuff going on in the book. So bravo!
I was actually enjoying this book before all of the twists were revealed but one by one as everything came to light I enjoyed it more and more until I decided, you know what? This book is just about perfect. Yes, even though I have some pretty big issues with the basic concept! You can have issues with the book but still really enjoy it, and I did.
I’m super excited for the sequel that’s being released later this year.