Review in ten-ish words: Interesting concept, killer ending and a promising set up for book two. ++ CN
“Don’t let her die, we are coming.”
Kiva has been a prisoner of Zalindov for ten years. Now at seventeen, she is both loathed and valued as the prison’s healer. The only contact with her family comes in the form of coded messages.
When the rebel queen arrives Kiva must do everything she can to ensure she survives, including participation in the Trial of Ordeals (which no one is yet to survive, by the way).
On top of a deathly trial, Kiva must also deal with a roguish new prisoner, villainous guards, and a plague sweeping through the prison.
The book was inventive and I appreciated that it was set inside of a prison (though some critique has been seen relating to the high level of violence and potential holocaust overtones).
I find that most fantasy stories have the MC as having had a prison sentence in their past, and it is often referred to. I LOVE that we got to join Kiva inside Zalindov.
Now I will agree this book is YA- but there are some heavier themes people should definitely be aware of before reading (CN for self harm, violence, torture, drug use, claustrophobia, references to sexual assault, mass cremation, ). In addition I did pick up on some ableist undertones that didn’t sit too comfortably and may bother some readers (e.g. a prosthetic that works better than a person’s hand, brief reference to stigma around STI’s).
I did feel a little bit of a lull in the middle where the plot slowed down and it felt repetitive but I still enjoyed the interactions between the characters.
I had some issues over whether some of the plot points were realistic (even with this being a fantasy novel)- or whether actions by some of the characters were believable. As demonstrated from the numerous content notes/warnings character hurt is a very large facet of the story.
The ending changed the book for me entirely. The pacing for the last quarter was perfect and I am DYING to read the next one with what has been established with some of the characters. I will say if you dislike an unreliable narrator this book may annoy you.
In general I am chuffed I found an Australian fantasy author- there is hope for me yet! Apparently, Lynette’s Medoran Chronicles is a great series and I am keen to read this one as well.
Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.