I knew pretty much straight off that this book was going to be right up my alley. And I was oh so right. I have to give a big thanks to Kate Keehan and the kind folks at Hodder and Stoughton for giving me the chance to read one of the few physical ARCs they had. I was oh so excited to read it in the post, and I devoured this book.
The story follows Kiva, a teenage girl who lives and works in the continent’s prison as a healer. Her family was accused of committing treason when she was young, and she was taken into prison with her father. Years have passed, now two intriguing prisoners have arrived close in time. A boy who seems to want to get to know her and the rumoured Rebel Queen. Kiva receives a note from her family telling her to protect the Queen, and they’re coming to collect her. But to keep her alive, Kiva will have to take part in her Trial by Ordeal instead.
Does this book not sound so good? Yes, some of the plot elements may sound a little cliché. But they actually really work. Noni has built up this world and only fed you bits and pieces. Which makes sense because the setting of prison is limited. Kiva hasn’t been anywhere in years, and she only knows what she remembers or what other people tell her. As things are revealed, the reader learns more and the second book looks set to explore a lot more. I’m very excited about that.
I liked Kiva as the main character. She tried to be cold and detached because she didn’t want to lose anyone. But the care she put into looking after all the prisoners, even if they hated her, is a lot more telling. There’s a plotline I don’t want to reveal in this, but it seriously highlights that this isn’t just a way for Kiva to pass the time. She wants to make sure all the prisoners are okay. She’s doing her best in some difficult circumstances, and I respect that.
I was about to say one of my favourite characters is- but then I had to stop. Because honestly? I love so many of them. Tipp is completely adorable, and I love that Kiva has this little brother figure. Naari is fun and seems like she could seriously kick some ass, and I really want to see that. Jaren was a good love interest who though technically does some questionable things. Actually seems to have a good heart. Then there’s Mot and gah- There were obviously characters I hated too, but I can’t help but gush. What I will say is that though there is a clear villain of sorts within this setting. And a rebellion set up against one of the kingdoms. It’s not clear who the big bad is actually going to be. You can see the points of both sides of the rebellion, and the prison villain might not have much influence outside of it. So you end the book wondering what could happen next as it’s not obvious.
And that’s a good thing.
It’s not a cliff-hanger. Not really. The story ends at a fitting point with hints as to where the second is going to go. But the book finishes on a reveal – though one that I will admit is pretty obvious – and it opens up a lot of places the second could go.
Overall I loved this book, and I’m so glad I read it. I didn’t even realise I needed another book in this sort of setting until I picked it up. I’m so glad there’s not a massive wait between books one and two (The Prison Healer is out in April, and The Gilded Cage is out in October) as I really need that second book now.
I couldn’t recommend this book more!