Narrator: Jeanette Illidge
Series: The Prison Healer #2
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Published on 28 September 2021
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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'You need to choose, Kiva. It's him or us. Them or us. You can't have it both ways.'
Kiva Meridan is a survivor.
Not only did she survive Zalindov Prison, but also the deadly Trial by Ordeal. Now, Kiva's purpose goes beyond survival to vengeance. For the past ten years, her only goal was to reunite with her family and destroy the people responsible for ruining their lives. But now that she has escaped Zalindov, her mission has become more complicated than ever.
As Kiva settles into her new life in the capital, she discovers she wasn't the only one who suffered while she was in Zalindov - her siblings and their beliefs have changed, too. Soon it's not just her enemies she's keeping secrets from, but her own family as well.
Outside the city walls, tensions are brewing from the rebels, along with whispers of a growing threat from the northern kingdoms. Kiva's allegiances are more important than ever, but she's beginning to question where they truly lie. To survive this time, she'll have to navigate a complicated web of lies before both sides of the battle turn against her and she loses everything.
I genuinely think it’s harder to write a 5 star review than it is to write a 1 star review.
It’s hard to list what a book does so well when it does everything so well. I genuinely had no issues with this book at all and enjoyed every minute of it.
This book is the sequel to the mind-blowing The Prison Healer, and takes place outside of the prison six weeks after Kiva et al’s miraculous escape. Kiva now resides in the River Palace with Jaren, Tipp, Nari, and the other royals, including the intriguing and sassy Prince Caldon. I really loved seeing Kiva’s relationship with Caldon develop – never based on sexual chemistry, because they had none, and besides, everyone (readers included) kind of understands that Kiva and Jaren are in love even if they are experiencing and incredible slow burn about the whole thing. But I watched in awe as Kiva and Caldon learned to respect, trust, and admire each other, developing into wholesome and platonic friendship that I really support. I loved seeing Kiva developing relationships with new characters, especially the queen, who is all shades of grey. I loved seeing Kiva and Jaren dancing around each other, and leaving it up to the reader to interpret why they were taking it so slow.
One of the issues I anticipated with The Prison Healer was the potential lack of location changes – luckily, this wasn’t an issue in the end, as there were plenty of interesting locations within the prison itself. And in The Gilded Cage, we get to travel with Kiva as she explores a beautiful palace built over a river, the city, and beyond, seeing several villages that expanded the world building. I really like this world: it seems like the royal family are really decent, and although we only saw the luxury of the palace from Kiva’s point of view, we also saw that the city had hospitals to take care of not just the rich but the poor as well, and cultural celebrations that widened the horizons.
I also found the plot really solid. Sometimes it seemed like all Kiva was doing was travelling back and forth, but she was driven by personal need that lent an incredibly believable motivation to her actions. She was walking a very thin line between loyalty to her family that she hadn’t had a relationship with for ten years, and the new family that opened its arms and welcomed her in without hesitation. I really felt of Kiva as she was torn between the two, and I understand all of her actions or lack thereof.
And I gotta say, after the several twists at the end of the first book, I wondered if Noni could keep it up at the end of this one, and I was pleasantly surprised to say that yes, even though there were careful hints littered throughout the book, I was taken totally by surprise by the twist at the end. I mean, that’s masterful storytelling, and I feel very safe placing my heart in Noni’s hands.
I originally thought this was only going to be a duology, but I was so excited to see there was a third book announced. This book didn’t at all feel like a filler novel, it was stuffed full of political intrigue, loyalties, rebels, found family, and Kiva struggling to define herself outside of the prison. The audiobook narrator was smashingly good, and I’m really looking forward to book number 3.