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.
From bestselling author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Sabaa Tahir.
HUGE thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!
I was browsing Netgalley one day when I came across a cover that caught my eye. It was The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni. I was immediately drawn in by the title and cover. Plus, while I had never read anything by Noni, my book bestie has read her The Medoran Chronicles series and is a massive fan! So suffice to say that I was thrilled when I got approved for an arc! And holy cow. Guys. The Prison Healer was freaking amazing!
The Prison Healer tells the story of Kiva Meridan. Kiva was imprisoned with her father ten years ago and she has been fighting to survive ever since. She works in the Zalindov prison as — you guessed it — the healer. Kiva spends everyday caring for the inmates of the brutal prison while maintaining hope that her family will rescue her. But everything changes when the Rebel Queen is captured and Kiva is placed in charge of the sick woman’s care. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal, but Kiva receives a message from her family to keep the queen alive. Kiva sacrifices everything and volunteers to take the Trials in the queen’s place. What comes next is intense, action-packed, and full of all kinds of twists and turns.
I absolutely loved The Prison Healer. I was immediately hooked by the atmosphere and high-stakes setting. The prison is intense, grim, and full of danger around every corner. I found myself so nervous as Kiva explained the day to day life of the prison. It is simply terrifying. Lynette Noni did an exceptional job of crafting this world and creating an all-encompassing, tension-filled atmosphere. I truly felt Kiva’s terror as she dealt with both the horrors of the prison and the Trial by Ordeal tasks. Kiva encounters abusive guards, aggressive fellow inmates, and truly terrifying trials. I was so on edge during the trials . . . especially the Trial by Fire. I’ll keep this spoiler free, but all you have to know is that I was petrified during this trial. Once again, Noni did such an incredible job of making me feel like I was with Kiva. I was with Kiva throughout the entire book and I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened next!!
One of my favorite parts of The Prison Healer is the healer aspect. As a nurse, I love to see characters who are passionate about healing and healthcare. Kiva was so incredibly inspiring with how she was truly selfless in her care. She cares for everyone who comes through her door the exact same way. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done. It’s what we all are trained to do as healthcare workers and I love seeing it represented so well in a fantasy book! I saw parts of myself in Kiva as she cared for her patients!
I was also fascinated by Kiva’s research and investigation into finding out the cause of the stomach virus plague that has overrun the prison. It was so fun (lol I am such a nerd) watching Kiva reason through the outbreak and come up with a plan to investigate. I am a huge nerd so I was loving all of the research and evidence based experimenting that Kiva was doing. Yay science!! This subplot was not only super interesting, but it also was another way that Noni was able to illustrate the injustices taking place at the prison.
And now for what you’ve all been waiting for . . . the romance. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of romance in The Prison Healer. There are definitely moments and the start to more, but the romance was not the overall focus of the book. I was initially worried that the romance/love-interest was a bit too insta-lovey. It seemed liked that was the direction the story was going, but I definitely changed my mind. I think what started in the beginning as an initial attraction/insta-love became a supportive friendship that slowly developed over time. The way that Jaren supports Kiva throughout the story was amazing. I was definitely swooning! Even in his prison disarray . . . Jaren is dreamy!
As much as I love Jaren, he is not my favorite character from the book. That title belongs to Tipp!!! He is absolutely adorable and such a sweet kid. I loved all of his scenes. It’s heartbreaking that a sweet, innocent eleven-year-old is in a horrible prison, but Tipp is such a light in the darkness. He really pulls Kiva out of herself and I love it. Tipp, Jaren, and Naari (a prison guard) were all fantastic supporting characters. Shout out to Mot too! The whole cast of characters is so well done. Even the bad guys . . they were so creepy and truly evil, but so well done!
The Prison Healer ends with several major twists and a huge cliffhanger! I suspected a couple aspects of some of the twists, but I had no idea the extent. I was shocked! There are so many reveals and truly EPIC twists that my jaw dropped. And that ending?! Are you kidding!? I need book two now!!
As you can see I absolutely loved The Prison Healer! This book was incredible. The world-building, cast of characters, plot, and twists were all exceptional. My only problem now is that I need more. The Prison Healer hooked me from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat. It is definitely one of my new favorite books and I cannot recommend it enough!