- The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
Trade ed. ISBN 9780358434559 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780358436348 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 7–10
For ten years Kiva has survived the brutal Zalindov prison by being an invaluable healer and a necessary spy for the Warden. She has also been given hope by the coded messages from her family on the outside, and when a deathly ill woman arrives, it is with a clear direction from them: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” When the Warden demands that the woman—who is revealed to be the Rebel Queen—undergo the Trial by Ordeal, Kiva volunteers herself to take the woman’s place and face the four elemental challenges, a certain death sentence. Meanwhile, as she prepares and continues her work as a healer, she becomes closer to newly arrived Jaren, a fellow inmate whose secrets might get them both killed. Noni pulls no punches when it comes to the bleakness of Zalindov, with the threat of physical and sexual violence always looming, and Kiva understands she’s only safe until she’s replaceable. Her insistence on healing all of her patients—even the child killers and [End Page 308] rapists—therefore makes her both practical and admirable, and as a character, her balance of self-sacrifice and self-awareness read as sympathetic rather than naïve. Her relationship with Jaren unfolds organically, with starts and stutters as she wrestles with her inability to trust and the fact that he likely has a criminal past he’s unwilling to share. While this is not quite as complex as Legrand’s Empirium trilogy, fans of that series will find similar elements of romance, action, and intrigue here.