Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.
Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.
The queen is sentenced to 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. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.
But no one has ever survived.
And 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.
The Prison Healer follows much the same format as other young adult fantasies, we have a magic system, perilous trials and a rebellion, but what sets it slightly apart from the rest is the atmospheric prison setting in which the entire story is situated. The author has a lovely imaginative writing style and describes in detail the prison setting and its surroundings and I became totally immersed reading about the harsh brutalities of daily prison life and the characters within. This is a grim story, the living conditions are horrendous and the prisoners are treated abominably but it’s wonderfully dark and gritty and I loved it. The pacing is good, there are one or two slow moments but otherwise it flowed and the unpredictable storyline is interesting and engaging.
There is a strong character focus all of whom are beautifully crafted and diverse and I liked the close bond forged between some of the main characters, supporting and watching out for each other. The story centres primarily around Kiva, the prison healer. A strong heroine Kiva’s characterisation is wonderful and she comes across as intelligent, resourceful, extremely brave and incredibly knowledgeable about healing. She was captured as a child and has survived the last 10 years in prison by keeping her head down and doing what she’s told without complaint. She receives intermittent secret coded messages from her family in the hope that one day she will be rescued. I really enjoyed following Kiva’s story and the challenges she faced. There are some really intense moments when she participates in the Ordeals, or the risky elemental tasks, involving air, fire, water and earth.
Naavi is one of my favourite characters, she lingers in the background for the most part, forever watchful and you’re not sure at first if she’s friend or foe. She has a wonderful quiet and calm disposition and a protective and compassionate side subsequently emerges. Tipp is adorable and a little ray of sunshine, he added a lovely little sparkle to the tale. Jaren is the love interest and shrouded in mystery, we get the feeling he is not what he seems. Romance in a storyline is always a welcome element for me, however this one was a little underwhelming and still needed the opportunity to grow to flourish. It’s slow burn and kept very innocent but there was some lovely flirty banter. I wasn’t quite feeling the chemistry here, but hopefully we’ll see more in the next book.
The Prison Healer is a compelling and gripping fantasy adventure with amazing characters and world building and an interesting and captivating plot. The plot twists are unpredictable and I really enjoyed that delicious one right at the end of the book. Dark and tense this novel will have you on the edge of your seat. I eagerly await the sequel.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date (UK): 13 April 2021
Series: The Prison Healer Series #1
Page Count: 413
Genre: YA Fantasy
Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy/eARC of this book to review.
Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊