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The Prison Healer

by Lynette Noni

Cover of The Prison Healer book by Lynette Noni. Image features flowers and  vines crawling through a prison gate set against a dark background. Image is to accompany book review on the same page.

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov. Prison life is brutal – vicious guards monitoring the prisoners’ every move, fatal work and abhorrent conditions – every prisoner is expendable. Kiva survives by being impassive and earns herself the privileged position of working as the prison healer. She dreams of one day being free of Zalindov, a prisoner no longer, free to reunite with her family on the outside.

When the Rebel Queen is captured and brought to Zalindov, Kiva is charged with keeping the seriously 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. The Trial by Ordeal is assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals and no one has ever survived. Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order –

Stay alive.
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 Rebel Queen will be granted their freedom. 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.

This is the first novel I have read in the Young Adult Fantasy genre and to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I just loved getting lost in this world. And I think that’s the attraction with the fantasy genre. The reader is transported to a kingdom which is so alternative to the one in which we exist, yet you’re so invested in the characters, perhaps because the conditions and situations they are in are so extreme. The Prison Healer is masterful storytelling by Australian author, Lynette Noni. The ending was both surprising and exhilarating and had me eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

You may be familiar with the #1 New York Times best selling author, Sarah J. Maas, who penned the seriously popular ‘Throne of Glass‘ series and the ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series. Authors such as Lynette Noni and Sarah J. Maas create worlds that are so richly imagined – their books have intelligent, strong and determined female heroines, people with special powers, a renegade group of friends, they inhabit strange, deadly worlds, there are kings and queens and war, a slow burn love interest and the main character is also grappling with a greater internal struggle, haunted by the past which is teased out throughout the story. The Young Adult Fantasy genre is immersive and transportive. There is so much to enjoy, it is captivating reading.

So if you would never typically pick up a Young Adult Fantasy fiction, I recommend you give them a try – you will not regret it! The Prison Healer is suitable for anyone aged over 14 years. The ending will have you running to the bookshelf to make way for the entire series of The Prison Healer. And you will need to get ready, because the second book in the series, The Gilded Cage, is out on 28 September. I can’t wait.

The Prison Healer, published 2021 by Penguin Random House Australia, 403 pages.


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