Where are all of my YA readers at? If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed YA with magic, complex characters, and plot twists, then look no further than The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni! After reading so much NA and Adult Fantasy recently, YA hasn’t been very high on my radar, but this book has definitely piqued my interest in this genre again. Also, just a heads up: I’m too excited about discussing this book to keep it spoiler-free. So you’ve officially been warned.
Title: The Prison Healer
Author: Lynette Noni
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.Synopsis from Goodreads
First, let’s talk about world-building/setting: Noni gives her readers just enough information to get hooked, then strings us along with tiny tidbits as they become important…and I LOVE THAT! The prison description was so vivid, but I really appreciated that she included a map. In my opinion, every fantasy author should include maps!!
And now for the main character, Kiva. She is probably one of my favorite YA heroines because of her tenacity. She survived the un-survivable as a child, and yet growing up in a prison didn’t take away her kindness and courage. Learning about her past and her father’s death was rage-inducing, but then learning the prison leader’s role in her father’s death took my rage to a whole new level.
When Jaren comes onto the page, it’s obvious that he’s going to be a love interest for Kiva. I had a feeling that his identity was not what it seemed; however, I was not expecting him to be the prince and Kiva’s enemy! I fully support the enemies-to-lovers trope! Excited to see what their relationship looks like in the next book.
Now that I’m on the topic of plot twists, let’s discuss the last 50 or so pages, shall we? Learning the Rebel Leader’s identity was absolutely mind-blowing. I had to put my book down and process it for a few minutes, and then I wanted to go back and re-read the book in light of what I had just read. I’m dying to know what happens in book #2, especially since Kiva’s identity changes everything between her and Jaren and what is could mean for the war.
Overall, this book is by far one of the most complex YA fantasies that I have read in a very long time, and I highly recommend it!