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.
Thank you so much Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.
“Holy Moly! This was fantastic!” I may have not used the exact words, probably something more colourful, but this book really left me with so many feelings and a dropped jaw that took me ages to fix. I am actually really excited to share this review.
The Prison Healer tells you the story of our brave Kiva, who has been brought to the prison of Zalindon when she was very little, where nobody ever leaves, unless dead. She was smart enough to find a way to make herself unexpendable, and for many years survived working as the prison’s only healer. She manages to smuggle some messages to and from her family, which gives her more strength to continue living among all the horrors and cruelties of the prison. She needs to muster all the courage she can when the Rebel Queen is brought into the prison and a message from her family instructs her not to let the new prisoner die. She has no other choice but to undergo the Trial by Ordeal instead of the Rebel Queen, with impossible chances of survival, but this could be her only option to get out of this prison and regain her freedom.
The story is told from Kiva’s perspective, and through her eyes, we follow the harsh realities of Zalindor and the life of various prisoners and guards. There should be a massive trigger warning at the beginning of this book because the descriptions of the life inside the prison are quite horrific, sometimes it felt more like reading a book about the Holocaust than a fantasy story.
This still remains a fantasy story, a brilliantly crafted one. As we are told the story from inside the prison, from Kiva’s point of view, we just get glimpses of the outside world, and we are kept completely in dark. Not even for a moment did I have the faintest idea where the plot was going. There are two story lines that go parallel. One is Kiva’s attempt to get back her freedom by taking part in Trial by Ordeal instead of the Rebel Queen. The other one is the mystery of a stomach sickness which is decimating the inmates and Kiva is the only one who can try to find a cure. It was great to see these two lines joining together towards the end.
Kiva is a great character and so are all the others, such as the other two prisoners, Jaren and Tipp, as well as Naari, the only guard who shows some compassion and support towards Kiva (she was definitely my favourite). You can’t help but love this band of prisoners and guard, but at the same time deep down you can’t help but doubt every single word they say.
However, the most amazing thing about The Prison Healer is the series of revelations you get at the end of the story, and above all that killing cliffhanger right at the end of the book, which had my head spinning and made me feel so dumb because I didn’t see it coming. The hints were there, and the writer did a splendid job hiding them.
I am at a loss here. I started this book with a fear of getting another disappointment, but the writer knocked me out. This story was a massive rollercoaster of emotions, I couldn’t put it down. Without disclosing too much, I honestly can’t wait to see where book two will take Kiva and discover more about this world and its magic system.
There were some harsh bits, again, this story is a massive trigger warning, but there was also romance, which is always a welcome component for me. It was not the main part of the story but I still enjoyed how it developed. Throughout the whole story, you get the feeling that there is so much more to say and I am dying to talk about the ending with someone. With a solid world-building, all-rounded characters, and gripping plot, this story is an absolute must-read and 5-star review.