The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer #1) by Lynette Noni (2021)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
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.
pooled ink Review:
If you enjoy fantasy hits by authors such as Sarah J. Maas or Leigh Bardugo, then you’re going to want to consider picking up a copy of Lynette Noni’s latest work, The Prison Healer.
This was the first book of Noni’s that I’ve ever read and WOW what a killer introduction because this book was everything I’d hoped it would be and everything that I’ve been missing in the “name brand” publishing industry which is honestly so saturated with mediocrity and overtly formulaic stories. The Throne of Glass series and the Six of Crows series are both standouts (to me anyway as I know there are always naysayers) that immediately come to mind whenever someone asks me for a YA fantasy recommendation. Angry-pants Twitter can have all of the opinions they want, but there’s a reason why those authors became queens in the industry. Noni’s The Prison Healer promises a perfect blend of action, secrets, rebels, long lost royals, and twist upon plot twist. As far as book one goes, I think she delivered and I’m on my knees hoping that book two carries on everything that I loved about the series beginning without succumbing to typical mid-series nonsense and cheap plot tactics. I think Noni is a skilled enough writer to keep this series strong and I am SO here for it.
Let’s break this down a bit (if only to help my own brain process this book that I totally binged and if it wasn’t for stupid work getting in the way I’m sure I could’ve finished it in a single day lol).
This first book opens with a scene that does a great job hooking your attention before fast-forwarding ten years and dumping you in a truly horrific prison where the rest of the story remains confined. Even with a confined setting, the plot stretches and moves freely, using the limited locale as a strength rather than a stifling hinderance. It keeps the story focused. We get a very quick n’ dirty introduction to Zalindov, the prison that serves the surrounding kingdoms, and though it stays pretty straightforward and simple, it manages to keep its horror fresh in each chapter. Bleh. So fun. To be frank, I don’t think that the world-building (currently at least) is all that special or spectacular, but it does the job and combined with the characters, plot, and writing ability, it manages to avoid feeling bland as you devour the story. Basically, pick at it all you want but I have no real complaints.
For me it’s important to click with the main character who in this case is Kiva, the seventeen-year old prison healer. She inherited the job, she’s good at the job, she has a love-hate relationship with the job which is beyond understandable. I personally really liked her. She was strong in a way that didn’t annoy me. Do you know what I mean? Kiva isn’t athletic, a bully, a brawler, an assassin, a badass, etc. and yet she also wasn’t whinny, pathetic, stupid, or overly reliant on others. Sometimes I feel like characters go too far in either direction trying to make sure she’s “strong” or “sweet/innocent.” Kiva, however, is a lovely blend and I liked her. She’s gentle, caring, intelligent, cautious, funny, decisive, determined, strong as hell. She did a seriously impressive job of believing in and upholding this fantasy world’s version of the Hippocratic Oath. Kiva is good, resilient, and brave. She made some really tough calls, took on some burdensome sacrifices, and she somehow managed to survive without letting her morals crumble to dust.
We also meet a few other faves including Tipp, a young boy who works as Kiva’s assistant, Mot, a very guilty prisoner but you’ll like him anyway, Naari, a guard you’ll respect, and Jaren, a prisoner with very pretty eyes. There are also, as expected, plenty of characters I’d rather not see again (it is a prison after all). All in all, this book contained a good cast of characters and oh boy that ending had me by the throat, clutching the book until my knuckles turned white, and already preparing rage-infused accusations in case certain things don’t go how I begged them to haha.
I love the way this book portrayed the various intricacies and complications of family, friendship, and romance. Yes there is of course a romance and yes I absolutely loved it and am here for it. I’m not going to get into all of these fabulous characters because I think I’d rather you just get to know them for yourself, but yeah, book one, at least, features a strong cast.
Now the PLOT. Wow, where do I even start… There’s a lot going on lol. No spoilers, but yeah, Kiva ends up with a lot on her plate. Surviving prison, curing a fast-spreading illness, facing four impossible trials that could either free her or kill her, protecting a dying queen, an innocent child, and a reckless ally, staying on the good side of the warden and the rebels whom are enemies, sneaking messages that could change or damn her life…yeah, I’m amazed she hasn’t died from the stress. It does make for a great story though. There’s a lot going on, various threads and motivations woven together, and the result keeps your attention until you’ve read that EXPLOSIVE ending, your head reeling from the sudden assault of plot twists and your pulse racing with Kiva’s, and demanding book two.
I am very excited to see where book two takes things. Like I said, the last few chapters drop a bunch of surprises and twists so I’m ready to pre-order the sequel as soon as it becomes available. Now, because I can’t resist patting myself on the back on the rare occasion that this happens (lol), I did theorize some of those twists and surprises, but they were still an absolute thrill to read when officially unveiled because the story has so much going on it was easy to stay in the moment and not get distracted by trying to get ahead of things and figure it out before the author wanted you to. Overall I would not call this book predictable and you have no idea how happy that makes me. I’m already harassing all of my friends to read it haha.
My reviews are usually a blend of informative and rambling reactions with this review being no exception, but I haven’t dived into as much as I will 100% be doing at book club because I just really want you to read it and find out for yourself. Honestly, my general review could be summed up with a satisfied smile and two words: “Well dayum!“
So, should you read The Prison Healer by Lynnette Noni?
The Prison Healer is a strong offering in the genre of YA fantasy featuring a story that is thrilling, layered, filled with both heart and danger, and packed with a twisting end that will have you shaking the bars for the sequel. Simply put, this book did not disappoint.
P.S. I do think there is a pretty obvious way to resolve everything and I really, really hope that’s what Noni chooses to aim for even if it is super obvious because you guys know I need my happy endings haha. She might force us to go on one stressful ride first, but so long as we get the destination we’re begging for, right? 😜
Meet Lynette Noni!
Lynette Noni is currently Australia’s #1 YA fiction author. After studying journalism, academic writing and human behaviour at university, she finally ventured into the world of fiction. She is now a full-time writer and the bestselling author of the six-book young adult fantasy series, The Medoran Chronicles, as well as a second bestselling and award-winning duology called Whisper.
Lynette won the 2019 ABIA Award for Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year, along with the 2019 Gold Inky Award (Australia’s only teen choice book award). She is currently collaborating on a project with #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas.
Lynette’s next series, The Prison Healer, is releasing globally in 2021.