The Prison Healer
By Lynette Noni
Ummmmmmm, who gave this book the right to end the way it did? I am quite shooketh. I had been eyeing The Prison Healer for some time, and when I saw it on the shelf, I knew I had to read it. However, I really didn’t know what to expect from this YA novel… especially once I started the book. As the plot thickened, I still was very, very confused (in a good way, not in a idkwhatisgoingonsoimgoingtodnfthisbook way) up until the very end, when literally all hell broke loose. If you’re looking for a book with complicated politics, plenty of action, and a wild ending, look no further and pick up The Prison Healer immediately. This book was highly entertaining, and the plot built upon itself until it blew up at the very end. Now, a warning: spoilers abound going forward, because I can’t just not talk about that ending. Read at your own risk!
Kiva is the Prison Healer, having been a prisoner for nearly ten years after she was captured along with her father. She’s lasted a lot longer than a good majority of prisoners in Zalindov, working hard to heal everyone who comes through the prison doors. The only thing keeping her alive is the hope that her family will come and rescue her after she has been receiving their periodic notes telling her that they are coming. But after so many years, Kiva is beginning to lose hope. That is, until a mysterious prisoner named Jaren appears. After his whirlwind arrival, Kiva is assigned to orient him to the prison by Naari, an equally mysterious guard who seems to favor and look out for Kiva. Soon after she orients him to Zalindov, the prison receives a new inmate: Tilda Corentine, the Rebel Queen. Tilda is comatose, blind, and very sick, but that isn’t Kiva’s only problem: when Tilda arrives, she gets a note from her family telling her to keep Tilda alive because they are coming. A massive problem, since Tilda is sentenced to the vicious Trial by Ordeals, a gruesome serious of trials no prisoner has ever lived through. Desperate to keep Tilda alive until her family comes to rescue her, Kiva volunteers as tribute (I had to, sorry) to go through the impossible Trials in Tilda’s place.
At the beginning of the book, I was super confused about the setting, not going to lie. Zalindov is a ruthless prison, but it seems like a good portion of prisoners aren’t necessarily bad, like you would think. Or at the very least, their crimes are petty and insignificant to the torture they endure within the walls of the prison (hmmmmmmmmmmm sounds like an all too familiar prison system, don’t we think?). I also had a ton of questions surrounding Kiva herself; why did she end up in prison alongside her father if she was only eight years old at the time they were arrested? Why hadn’t her family come to retrieve her yet, if they had promised to find her for nearly ten years? Most importantly, why in the world did she volunteer to undergo the trials in Tilda’s place if she had nothing to do with the rebels? The world outside of the prison seemed confusing too, as we readers were given very little information. We knew there was a royal family, the Vallentis family (elemental magic), and a band of Rebels, who backed Tilda’s claim to the throne (the Corentine family, blessed with healing magic). They are the only two families with any sort of magic, and they have been at war for years, both claiming the throne. So, conflict outside the prison seems extremely complicated and political… yet we don’t see much of it in this novel. I think we will get much more of the outside world in the second book.
Let’s talk about characters. I liked Kiva… and it was hard not to admire her after going through so much. Was she my favorite heroine? No, but that’s ok. I thought Jaren was super sus throughout the whole story, and I really suspected that he at the very least had powers from the start. Though, I honestly did not think that he was the crown prince, so that was a wild surprise to learn. Truthfully, I’m that basic bitch who would like to see a bit more romance between them… so maybe we’ll get that going forward, in a sort of enemies to lovers way. Nothing about their relationship was enemies to lovers, as Jaren was very sweet and supportive of Kiva the entire time… yet the ending has me wondering. I would give my left kidney for Tripp, he was adorable and I actually cried at several times throughout the book when he was sick or in danger. If anyone hurts him again, I will riot. The Warden was terrifying; his obsession with Kiva was so creepy, especially when he all but sentenced her death during the trials, but continued to act concerned for her well being once she finished a trial. Can somebody say abusive relationship.
There were so many underlying themes throughout this book, including addiction, trauma, and healing, and each one gave so much to the story. The ending completely blew me away… tbh I did suspect that Kiva had healing powers, an anomaly perhaps, but to find out that she was Kiva Corentine? The actual rebel queen? That was entirely unexpected, and my jaw actually dropped when I read the ending. So was Tilda a pawn the whole time? How was Kiva gathering support for the rebellion if she was in prison? Did her family partake in more serious crimes when she was younger, and was that the reason they were thrown in jail? Why didn’t her family come get her sooner if she was the rebel queen the whole time? As you can see, I have about a million questions surrounding this stunning ending to the story. Seriously, it was some great writing by Lynette Noni to keep that major fact hidden throughout the entire novel, without giving readers any sort of clues whatsoever. A part of me wishes Kiva wasn’t someone important, that she was still a nobody girl stuck between a rock and a hard place… I’m a little tired of the lost chosen one trope. But that’s a very small part of me, and to say I’m eagerly awaiting the second book would be an understatement. I have to learn more about this world and the politics between the rebels and the royal family, and I can’t wait to see how Kiva’s heritage affects her relationship with Jaren going forward.