The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni – The Prison Healer #1 – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 13 April 2021
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.
If you love Sarah J Maas or Maria V Snyder’s books you will fall in absolute love with Lynette Noni’s The Prison Healer. This book utterly entranced me and yet I wanted to savour it and enjoy every agonising, horrible, tortuous moment. This book is set in a horrible prison, features illness and death, and the character face lots of abuse, torture and trials designed to kill – and I loved every single moment!!! Crazy! But so, so good.
Kiva has survived ten long years in Zalindov prison. When her father was accused of meeting with a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Kiva was also taken. After the death of her father, Kiva assumed the role of prison healer. It’s a role that provides her some sense of purpose within the treacherous walls, but it costs her dearly in other ways. In the depths of winter, the prison accepts two unexpected arrivals – a wounded man who, after she saves his life, seems to want to get close to Kiva and the Rebel Queen. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to face the Trials of Earth, Wind, Air and Water, but Kiva knows she is not well enough to survive. In a bold move and prompted by a secret message from her family waiting for her outside of the prison walls, Kiva takes the Rebel Queen’s place in the trials and seals her fate to the woman.
Lynette Noni is a favourite author and much loved by my young library regulars. This is a very different book and far darker than her previous titles. I can definitely see Maas’s influence and those who enjoyed Poison Study will love this book. The Prison Healer is dark, tense and moves along at a fast pace. There is action, politics, rebellion, secrets, alliances, bargaining, and under everything a desperate need to survive. But, alongside all that darkness is also light. Tipp, the young boy who also resides in the prison and is Kiva’s helper, is so sweet and charming. There is also Jaren, the new inmate who persistently tries to get to know Kiva, who keeps showing up. And Naari, the guard who is regularly assigned to Kiva’s work area and who is decent, unlike all the other guards. Kiva herself, for all her hardship, never complains, which makes her such a wonderful character to support. She is introspective and keeps her secrets close.
The ending isn’t a cliffhanger but it does throw some pretty massive twists into the plot and the sequel is going to be epic. I was wondering throughout the story if some of the things that end up happening could happen but then thought, no, that would be too much to ask for, too cool, and then they all happened!! So awesome. Fortunately for us readers, book two is being released just a few months after the release of The Prison Healer, so we won’t have to wait too long for the continuation of this amazing story.
The romance. Gosh golly, the romance. So good. Can I just leave it at that? It is literally just so good.
But despite the action, romance, tension, clever twists and way you are drawn into the story and come to care for the characters, despite all this good stuff, it was Kiva herself that was my favourite part of the book. She is so incredibly compassionate, yet self preserving too – she has to be to survive in such a harsh and dangerous environment. Strong is an understatement. What she might lack in physical strength she more than makes up for in her wisdom, knowledge about healing, resilience and ability to just keep going when others would have given up years ago. She protects her heart and her secrets with a fierceness that makes Jaren and Tipp and Naari breaking through those walls she has set up around her heart all the more precious.
This book is highly recommended and while it will better suit a more mature audience (there are lots of massive trigger warnings, see my content guide below) than Noni’s previous books, her older fans and new readers alike will be entranced by this amazing, atmospheric novel.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Prisons, prisoners, rebellion, magical, elemental magic, romance, healing and medicine, illness.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Strong violence – torture, whipping, branding of flesh, death of multiple people and on mass, illness, blood, injury, gore. Strong sexual references, references to sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault while drugged leading to death, rape used as power, threat and control. Drug use and overdose, leading to abuse. Infrequent strong coarse language, sl** (8), bi**** (7), who** (8),
Published: 13 April 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 416 pages.