Hello hello and welcome to my review of one of my top reads from April. This new and exciting release is causing ripples in puddles for all the right reasons, and it’s wonderful to talk about it to an audience who can’t run away from me. No, really, my friends are sick of hearing me rave about it, so it’s your turn!
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.
This book starts off a little slowly, and builds into a wonderful full musical of notes. We are given insight into the way this fictional prison, Zalindov, works, and the way that Kiva is carving out her place in it, with various threats coming at her from several directions. Aged only seventeen, Kiva is responsible for the infirmary, with help from a young boy called Tipp whom she has taken under her wing since the death of his mother.
The medical side of things is interesting as a lot of care has evidently gone in to creating this fictional apothecary, with the odd item or two that cross over into scraping the surface of reality, with things like ‘poppymilk’ for example. I’m always interested to see how fictional / fantasy settings handle healthcare, and it was really interesting to see that happen in a way that wasn’t just swept under the carpet with magic being the answer. Kiva and her father have created and cared for an extensive ingredient garden next to the medical wing, and the memories she has associated with it, along with everything he has taught her, means that despite her age, she is the best qualified person for the job.
The other characters that come onto the scene, Jaren and Naari, both give a lot to the story that is being created, especially when it comes to being divided when the rebel queen, Tilda, arrives. The state she arrives in however, is one too poorly to pose a threat to anyone at all, let alone the rival royals who currently sit on the throne. With Kiva, Tipp, Jaren and Naari creating a little focus of characters, we also have input from various others, ranging from the head of the prison rebels to the prison custodian. It makes for an interesting book, page after page, and I loved how there was a steady rythum but a constant change also.
The prison itself was set in disgraceful conditions that remind me of the books such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, where inmates are faced with brutal conditions and horrendous workloads. The constant threat of violence from the guards and other inmates, with nowhere safe to turn, makes for a dark backdrop. But it is this dark back drop that allow the vivid colours and wonderful moments between our four key characters to shine.
There were twists and turns that were unpredictable and I really didn’t see coming, which always makes me happy; I love being taken by surprise, and this book certainly succeeded in doing that. I can’t wait to read the next book, as this was just a work of sheer brilliance, and I can only see book two being better. I don’t generally rate books unless required for blog tours, but this was easily a five star book, and comes with my highest of recommendations.