The Prison Healer (Lynette Noni, Penguin)
Lynette Noni, the winner of the 2019 Gold Inky for her dystopian sci-fi novel Whisper, returns to fantasy with The Prison Healer. Kiva’s daily life as prisoner and prison healer at Zalindov Prison is disrupted when two new prisoners arrive. One will be her mysterious love interest, the other is the deathly ill rival claimant to the throne who has been sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal—a series of elemental challenges. Having received a message that her family are finally coming for her, along with the instruction that she ensure the Rebel Queen survives, Kiva volunteers to take her place. Unlike Katniss in The Hunger Games, Kiva has none of the skills needed to succeed in the challenges and must rely on her more talented allies to save her. Ingeniously, these challenges are actually mere distractions from the more insidious threat putting the lives of everyone in Zalindov at risk: a pandemic. Kiva shows her heroism in the care she gives the sick and in her determined efforts to find the cause of the disease. The innovative and timely healer-as-hero theme makes for a slow burn of a novel, but a whiplash-inducing twist in the final pages will have readers desperate for the forthcoming sequel. The Prison Healer is recommended for those aged 15 and up, on account of the frequent depictions of violence and some references to sexual assault.
Ilona Urquhart has a PhD in literary studies and now works in a public library.