REVIEW: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, for accepting my request to read and review The Prison Healer via NetGalley.
The Prison Healer is a predictable yet gripping YA fantasy novel.
This book follows Kiva, the titular prison healer, as she volunteers to act as Champion for the Rebel Queen and undertakes four elemental trials in the attempt to win their freedom. That’s not all Kiva’s got going on, though; there’s also a debilitating stomach virus ravaging the prison, and unless she can find out what’s causing it the population of the prison is going to continue to plummet. Everyone’s lives are in Kiva’s hands – quite literally.
Let’s start off with the things which impressed me about this novel.
First of all, The Prison Healer is an extremely fast-paced read. Because Kiva is gearing up to face four different trials, there’s not a lot of downtime. The pages which do fall in between the trials is stuffed with investigations, experiments and theories as to what is causing the stomach virus, so there’s always something going on in this book.
The makes it very engaging, but it’s also easy to digest. Lynette Noni has a pleasant writing style which effortlessly weaves the exposition required to flesh out the world she’s created without it becoming info-dumpy, and I didn’t find myself getting fatigued by the history or the politics in this story.
I’m also a huge fan of these characters. Tipp is a particular favourite of mine. He’s Kiva’s assistant, and his earnest, eager to please attitude combined with his stutter just makes me want to do anything to protect him. I also really liked Jaren, whose dry sense of humour and witty banter with Kiva had me chuckling. Their relationship is very paint by numbers YA (we’re-not-quite-enemies-to-lovers, with a few ups and downs along the way) but I’m interested in seeing how it develops over the course of the trilogy. Naari is also very intriguing, as I had her motivations pegged from the beginning but there seems to be a lot more depth to her character. I’m keeping an eye on her…
However, there were a few things which bothered me about The Prison Healer, and that’s why it ended up being a three star for me.
First and foremost, the entire book is painfully predictable. There are a lot of tropes used in this book which I’ve seen done before. Although I haven’t necessarily seen them done better, they diminished the impact of the twists and reveals. I saw everything coming from a mile away. I’m normally good at working out the vague direction that a story is going to take, but when I’m making predictions which seem like they should be farfetched (because of a lack of foreshadowing in the plot) and they’re all spot on (because I’ve read books like The Queen of the Tearling, Red Queen and Shadow & Bone), it’s very disappointing. I tried not to let this impact my rating too much, because someone who hasn’t read a lot of YA fantasy and hasn’t encountered those tropes before will be genuinely surprised, but I’m a little bit too old to fall head over heels in love with this story.
The ending also dampened my enjoyment of the novel quite substantially. Yes, it’s made me excited to see what happens in book two – everything is up in the air, and everything I expected to see revealed throughout the course of the series has already been exposed, so I have no idea what’s going to happen next but I really want to find out! However, the way that a certain piece of information was revealed felt anti-climactic, and if I hadn’t felt so invested with these characters I wouldn’t be picking up The Gilded Cage.
That being said, The Prison Healer is a great look at the way that a book can be set in one very small location and can still give a great sense of the world. With Kiva reflecting on experiences from her childhood, nearby royalty coming to observe one of Kiva’s trials and rumours sneaking into the prison from outside the walls of Zalindov, Lynette Noni paints a great picture of the world outside of the prison while not letting her protagonist out of her confinement. This setting is very claustrophobic, which adds to the tension experienced throughout, and it’s certainly made for one of the most memorable settings I’ve read in a while.
All in all, The Prison Healer is a solid series starter, but it’s just not the book for me anymore. I’m going to carry on with the series and I’m expecting great things from it – especially as Lynette Noni isn’t afraid to explore the darker aspects of YA fantasy – but this isn’t a new favourite just yet.
Thank you for checking out my review of The Prison Healer. If you’ve read this book, please let me know your thoughts down below!
See you again soon,