What is the cost of survival? The Prison Healer fantasy sure puts the bar high

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni is a dark YA fantasy with all the usual plot parts, the twists, the rare magic, the mentally strong heroine and the unlikely romance. Teens 16+ should love it.

What is it about?

Kiva has survived 10 years in the worst prison of the joined kingdoms – the place where all the worst but especially rebels are sent for hard labour. Luckily, her father taught her the basics of his healer profession in the first few years in jail, before he passed away and left her the position. She is now 17 and the very queen of the rebels has been arrested, a plague is threatening to kill a good percentage of the inmates and Kiva who has done her best to avoid getting attached to anyone in this jail, where most people don’t live more than 6 months, might be making 2 new friends.  

What I liked

I really liked the empathy of Kiva dictating that she saves everyone – no matter their politics, she wants to help and cure and find the way to do things right despite the harsh environment, the difficult survival, everything. But of course she is not puerfect, and despite burying her heart deep fso as not to suffer anymore, despite her curt answers she isn’t fooling anyone. I like characters that are pacifists at heart and want to solve problems without violence. I think there is too much violence already and I love more creative answers.

I really enjoyed Tipp too – I love those kind of little brother relationships and this one works very well.

I liked the unusual setting. And the plot was very well rounded, paced for exciting events and escalating the stakes all the time so as to reach “shocking” reveals. The book starts slow but gains in speed halfway through and I am sure many will enjoy it.

What I was less a fan off

That said about the plot, I must admit that as a big reader of fantasy and a writer I had figured out the the whole book at the 20% mark. This made it a little slow for me. But most people don’t look for the puppeteer strings like I do. The foreshadowing was a bit heavy but I rarely read a teen novel so satisfying in the way it resolves absolutely every plot point, even though it is the first volume in a trilogy. The beginning was a little slow too, and quite a few time it felt like we were told something was bad but didn’t ever see it. We get very little sense of other prisoners from the main characters and that felt a little strange. In this kind of environment I would have thought they would be quite a large danger too, but nothing is ever hinted that way which felt unrealistic too me. Of course this is a YA novel so I guess it didn’t want to be too dark.

Who is this book for?

If you enjoyed the light writing style and well designed alternative magical world of the Paper Magician series by N. Holmberg, or if you liked the resistance and rebellion in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, then this is for you.

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