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.
Big thank you to Kate & Hodder for the review copy! I can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’d read some mixed reviews before going into The Prison Healer, but once I read the first few pages I was completely hooked. Noni completely brought Zalindov Prison and the people that inhabit it to life and I easily found myself invested in Kiva as well as other characters storylines.
Kiva is a rarity, having survived in Zalindov Prison for 10 years, her healing skills have made her almost invaluable, and she has ensured her safety by becoming the Warden’s eyes and ears, something that disgusts her. She is looked down on by the other prisoners, but Kiva isn’t there to make friends. She just needs to survive a little bit longer, because her family is coming to save her. Only the arrival of some prisoners throw a spanner in the works, and Kiva will find herself risking life and limb to save someone she barely knows, as well as trying to get a hold on her feelings for the strange boy unlike anyone she has ever met.
I loved Kiva as a character. She is incredibly resilient after living in the prison for 10 years, doing what she needs to do to survive just waiting for the day her family will rescue her. As the healer she can’t help but build ties with people, ties she doesn’t want because ties become emotions, and emotions just get in the way. But she is only human, and humans form attachments, even in the direst of places. The only person she lets close is Tipp, the boy who reminds her of her younger brother, and who she has practically raised since his mother died. Her story is one filled with sadness, taken to the Prison because she dared defy the guard who tried to arrest her family, she doesn’t deserve to be there, but then neither do a good portion of the population.
We also get treated to a great cast of side characters. Tipp, the young boy who Kiva see’s as a brother. He ended up in the Prison because he wouldn’t let go of his mother when she was arrested, but the Warden without let him out without a guardian to claim him. Jaren, the mysterious boy who arrives alongside two dead bodies, Kiva finds herself drawn to him despite her claims to not want to form attachments and Naari, the only prison guard who seems to live by a code, she doesn’t harm the prisoners and ends up becoming an almost friend to Kiva, looking out for her especially where some of the other guards are concerned. Even though Kiva claims to not want to form attachments, form them she does, and I loved seeing all the different relationships develop throughout the book. She unintentionally brings out a loyalty in the people she likes and before long those loyalties will get tested.
The author doesn’t shy away from the realities of prison life, especially for a woman, and because of that this book should come with some definite trigger warnings for off page rape, near abuse of a dead body, mental and physical torture. There were parts of this book, and certain characters that totally creeped me out, but that just added to the atmosphere for me and made me feel more invested in the storyline. Noni does a brilliant job of giving you the history of her world, a good insight into the magic system as well as character backstories without it becoming overwhelming or having too many info dumps. Thanks to the authors writing style the story really flows and with plenty of plots twists thrown in for good measure I ended up devouring this in two sittings.
You might have seen me post on twitter after finishing this, but in case you didn’t all I can say is wtf was that ending! It seriously had me gasping out loud and flicking back to all the little clues I missed and hitting myself for not realising where the story was going sooner. I am forever grateful that book two is already available to request on NG because I seriously couldn’t wait a year to carry on the story. An easy 4 out of 5 stars. There were parts of this book that I felt dragged on slightly longer than necessary, but I loved it as a whole and can’t wait to continue with the series.