Series: The Prison Healer #1
Published by Penguin Random House Australia on March 30, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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From bestselling Australian author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.
Here at Zalindov, the only person you can trust is yourself.
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.
One of my most highly anticipated books The Prison Healer is out this week, and I had the opportunity to interview Lynette Noni for one of her virtual book launches at Kinokinuya Sydney! I was super excited to receive an early copy of this, having first heard about it about 2 years ago.
So what is it about? Set in a death prison called Zalindov, The Prison Healer follows a healer named Kiva, who is suddenly thrust into a Trial of Ordeals where death is pretty much guaranteed.
This is definitely the darkest book that Lynette has ever written, with several trigger warnings which I’ll list below. There’s no glossing over it: the circumstances in Zalindov are tough, people are in it to survive, and Kiva is lucky that she has the favour of the Warden, amongst other things.
5 things I loved about The Prison Healer:
1. Kiva’s role as a healer
Many fantasy books have us following fighters, assassins and magicians, but Prison Healer gives us an in-depth look at what it’s like to be a healer in a fantasy world. There’s the application of different types of herbs with various effects which was really cool, and she also holds an interesting position within Zalindov. The inmates tolerate her, but need to stay on her good side if they want her to treat them when they need it, and the guards also (mostly) leave her alone. It was interesting seeing how she would treat the patients, wanting them to get better despite who they are and what they have done to imprisoned.
2. How the secondary characters brought light to Kiva’s life
One thing I love about Lynette Noni’s books is how she brings to life the secondary characters, and we have a wonderful cast of characters here. After surviving for 10 years at Zalindov, Kiva forms a tentative bond with a prison guard named Naari, a child called Tipp and an inmate called Jaren, and I enjoyed seeing these relationships grow over the course of the book, in various ways. In an otherwise dark setting, these characters and their dialogue really brought light to Kiva’s life, and I loved getting to know them all.
3. The world-building and dynamics of a prison within a fantasy world
It was fascinating seeing Zalindov as a neutral ground between 7 kingdoms, and how prisoners from every kingdom would be sent there. Although we don’t see much outside of Zalindov at this rate, we do have some visiting royals and glimpses of the outside world that gives us insight into the dynamics between the Warden and the other kingdoms. The Warden holds an interesting position, needing to answer to them, but also holding a powerful position of his own – which offered another interesting aspect to the plot. There’s also a whole rebels vs royalty storyline that is explored here where the prison again, holds a neutral ground to the planning and plotting.
4. Fascinating (and traumatising) elemental trials
The Trials of Ordeal are elemental trials that Kiva must survive in order to be freed from her sentence at Zalindov, and it was interesting hearing about how each one was formed. While they were quite traumatising with dire consequences, as each of the Trials advanced, it was fascinating to read about. I also liked hearing about the little twists within each trial, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they are because of spoilers.
5. The twists and turns within the book
Speaking of twists and turns, the book is filled with them, until the very last page. It’s been about a week since I’ve finished the book, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I loved stumbling upon them while reading the book and I can’t wait to see what the next book features!
Although dark and at times distressing, The Prison Healer holds a strong message of survival and having the will to live another day. While the setting and subject matter within the book is dark, there were so many bright spots within the book: the secondary characters, Kiva’s will to survive, the magic, royalty and slow burn romance.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Trigger warnings: substance abuse, sexual abuse and rape (offpage), live burning, torture, drowning, child abuse, self harm
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me a review copy!
The Prison Healer is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$24.99 or from Booktopia or The Book Depository.