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.
The Prison Healer has surprised me in the best way and is one of my favourite reads of 2021. I was hooked from the very first page and Noni's writing is so enthralling it made this story a joy to read. A fantasy with trials, elemental magic, a mysterious disease sweeping the prison, and really awesome characters. It also had so many plot twists that I never saw coming.
Set mainly in the walls of the prison Zalindov, Kiva is the prison healer treating the sick throughout her ten years stuck there. During this time, her family sneaks her notes telling her to hold on and that they will help her. Outside the prison, there is unrest involving rebels against the crown, so when the next prisoner brought in is the rebel queen alongside a note to keep her alive Kiva must do everything she can to protect her. This includes putting herself forward for the trial by Ordeal instead of the rebel queen. If she survives she walks free, if she fails she dies and so does the rebel queen. While this is happening there is also a mysterious disease hitting the inmates and Kiva must figure out what it is before it gets to those close to her.
This story is predominantly focused on the prison but I hope that in the sequel we get to learn even more about the world and magic system. The elemental magic is touched on briefly and plays an interesting role in the story but there is definitely more that can be expanded with it. I enjoyed that this installment allows the set up of key characters, explores unrest within the prison, and builds on core relationships. The character relationships were one of the aspects I loved most. There is a light romance plot that runs through the story which I really enjoyed. I hope that this is also explored further in the sequel. The relationship between Kiva and Tipp was also so heartwarming. Tipp is a young child that Kiva took under her wing and their relationship is so pure.
The author's writing style is so easy to fall into that I was engrossed from the first chapter. Noni weaves her fantasy world flawlessly. I am itching to explore it further. If you are in a reading slump and find high fantasy too much to get your head around, pick this up! It is such an enjoyable read and the different storylines within the prison are pulled together so well and you won't even see the (many) plot twists coming. I haven't been shocked like this with a book for a long time. I would pitch this to anyone who enjoyed Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas but imagine if the story focuses on Celaena while she was in the Salt Mines in Endovier, and instead of being an assassin, she's a kindhearted and fierce healer.
There are themes touched upon in this book that I thought were handled well and with care. This includes themes of self-harm, drug abuse, and domestic abuse.
The Prison Healer is an unmissable fantasy. If you enjoy elemental magic systems, healing magic, slow-burn romance, and elements of found family you will love this book. It surprised me in the best way and I am so excited to read the sequel The Gilded Cage (release date: October 12th 2021).
4.5 Falling Books
Thank you to Kate at Hodder & Stoughton for providing a Netgalley ARC.