This is a 5 star read. There is literally nothing I can say that will take away from the fact that this book blew my mind and any expectations I had had out of the water. It was that good. So good in fact, that I would have nothing remotely “meh” to say if it hadn’t been for the last page of the novel. And that frustrates me. But I’ll get into that in a second; first I’m going to sing the books praises.
Scratch that– first I’m going to summarize this bad boy, then I’m going to sing it praises.
The Prison Healer takes place after our heroine Kiva’s family was ambushed by soldiers. She and her father were then taken to the most feared hard labor camp/prison in the kingdom: Zalindov. From there, Kiva has become a quiet force of nature in the form of a healer, but even her skills are tested when The Rebel Queen– an opposition to the current kingdom’s regime– comes to the prison dying. In no position to stand trial, and yet forced to undergo a series of deadly tasks to attempt to prove her innocence, Kiva steps in for her as champion. So now, juggling her duties, a new mysterious prisoner, and an even more mysterious sickness sweeping through the prison, the course of Kiva’s life is changed.
This book doesn’t shy away from anything. And I mean that in the best way. Oftentimes, YA books tend to be hesitant over how much.. brutality and grittiness they allow themselves to show, even when the occasion warrants it. This book does no such thing and that, more than anything else, adds to the atmosphere of the novel. It transports you into the hell that is Zalindov. The guards, the sickness, the inmates, there is nothing sanitized about this novel and that is to it’s credit.
The characters– and I mean every. single. one.– had depth and purpose to the novel. Shoutout to Jaren (god bless him he was genuinely kind and not annoying at all) and Naari (a badass with actual personality) to being the perfect side love interest and quiet guardian. And Tipp. Tipp rocked my world. A lot of child characters are just kind of there or are annoying– my boy Tipp is none of that. He has character and purpose and I adored him.
Kiva is also the perfect mix of quiet wittiness, veiled in caution and maturity. Apart from the last page of the novel, I thought her every word and action was consistent and likable. Her drive to do the right thing in even the harshest conditions was admirable.
The pacing was efficient; enough to always know something is going on, but slow enough that you get to learn the day to day motions through the prisons. The Trials were thought out and made sense for the plot of the story.
The plot twists, one which I expected and the other that I had an inkling, but still took me by surprise, are carefully layered. They’re peppered in with phrases and actions that seem like one-offs, but definitely paint a clear picture as you go on through the story.
However. The reveal of the final major plot twist– the one which I had that vague inkling– was frustrating. The pesky last page. For a book whose strategy was so meticulous in planting clues and trusting its audience to pick up on what’s not being said, that strategy was thrown out the window in a bit of a heavy-handed (and maybe slightly out of character) fashion. I knew that that specific reveal had to come into play in order to further the series, but I did not love it being just spit out at us in the most cheesy of ways. It could have been a little more smooth, but I do understand that it was meant to have a punch-gut feeling.
Don’t get me wrong though, I positively adored this book and I can’t wait to see where it goes as we get deeper into the world and politics of Vallenia and Evalon. Not even that *clenches fist* last page can change the fact that this is a novel where every detail is placed for a reason and still the journey is worth every second.
**Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.