Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 416 pages
Author: Lynette Noni
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 13th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.
When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally 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, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.
Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “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 queen will be granted their freedom.
But no one has ever survived.
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.
When your friends keep talking about a big reveal that blew their minds, it makes interested. Then I spent my entire read anxiously waiting what news was going to make things hit the fan. My thoughts went as followed:
First drop: okay okay, I kinda figured that. Am happy with this knowledge. Not a huge reveal though?
Second drop: ALRIGHT THEN. That is definitely new information. I’m curious how this will affect the next book.
Third drop: OHHHHMYGOSHHHH!?!?! WHY DID I NOT SEE THAT COMING. Totally blindsided.
Those last 50 pages skyrocketed this book to five stars. The rest of it was truly enjoyable and I was having a good time diving into this darker YA fantasy. That ending though. Y’all. My hopes are through the roof on this second book.
What I thought was a bit quirky was that I could see some similarities to SJM’s plots and writing. Not a bad thing, just something I noticed. They are friends (I believe, don’t quote me) so that was an interesting tidbit that I realized after finishing.
Back to the characters. I really liked Kiva! She felt human and flawed, but desperately trying to do the right thing and honest to goodness survive. I loved Naari and hope to see more of her in the next book. And I am smitten with Tipp. He is precious and brings a bit of lightness to this otherwise morose tale. I wish the romantic sub-plot was a little more developed, though I’m grateful it didn’t jump to over the top in love without more development. I’m hoping it’s all more well-rounded as the series goes on.
A really great first book that kept me interested and had plenty of action. I’m so excited to see what happens next!!
Overall audience notes:
- YA Dark Fantasy
- Language: very little
- Romance: some forehead kisses
- Violence: plague, poisoning, physical altercations, riots, knife violence; this is a dark fantasy
- Trigger/Content Warnings: mentions of rape (off-page, implied), self-harm, loss of loved ones, torture, whipping, imprisonment, nearly being burned alive, drowned, buried alive