Review of The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

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.

I finished The Prison Healer yesterday and that ending has still absolutely rocked me! I loved this book so much, the characters, the story, the way it made me feel and that cover is fantastic too! Lets dial it back though, and start with the characters. Kiva was a great protagonist, a survivor bound by her oath to help those in need no matter what. I loved her focus and determination and that despite the looming trials she had to solve a mystery shrouding the prison at the same time, this girl is the queen of multitasking. She is supported by a great case of side characters, some more on the morally grey side than not, it is a prison after all and not everyone is falsely imprisoned! I have to address the half star docking in the room though as the romance was enemies to lovers style, which is not my bag at all and whilst I admired Kiva’s stoicism with keeping her head down and focusing on the work I did have to eye roll when she started inner monologuing about Jaren’s dreamy eyes and cheekbones – I get that there is a market for romance but I feel that it wasn’t really necessary to drive this story forward.

And drive forward it does, for me there were no lulls at all, Kiva moves from task to task methodically, I read the second half of this book in one go as I just didn’t want to put it down.  The prison was an epic backdrop to all that was happening and was a character in itself with so many areas both displayed and hidden, the sinister Abyss and the dank aquifier each one with its own sense of foreboding every time Kiva left the sanctuary of the infirmary. Whilst the story does follow quite a few of the traditional YA tropes it does them well and the diversity of the setting breathes new life into them. That is what makes The Prison Healer such a great read though, it takes a story that you think you know and simply just does it better.

It does get dark though, Kiva is met by a relentless tirade of verbal and physical abuse and there is a TW for self harm here although its discussed in retrospect rather than the act being carried out. There are parts that I didn’t think I could bring myself to flip the page to read what I thought was coming but the brutality is thankfully always brief but it is impactful when it happens really showing the power of fade to black.

I think I’m going to leave it there because whilst there is so much I want to say, it is such a unique story that I don’t want to spoil anything and also I’m struggling to articulate all the ways this story made me feel. Its a mid paced read which somehow manages to feel like an electrifying faced paced page turner. Also Tipp is adorable and I want to wrap him up in a giant blanket and feed him milk and cookies. So yes, please read The Prison Healer, you won’t regret it!

Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for the e arc to review.

4.5*

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