Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending this arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from 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.
This story sounded so interesting and had a really intriguing storyline yet I just didn’t love it like I thought I would. I liked the story somewhat but I just didn’t love any character which made it difficult for me to really root for them despite the fact that they endure some terrible things.
The story is about a young woman who has been in prison since she was seven and mostly entirely alone and it didn’t make sense that she had no one who looked after as a child and she had so many skills including being a healer after watching her dad for a year when she was seven. Her motivations for choosing to risk her own life and suffer through the trials which are known to be horrific also didn’t make sense and it was just confusing as to why she would have such a strong motivation to do something like that. Like yes she was told to keep her alive but why is she so personally invested in it? Especially for people who kept promising to help her but never actually came.
I also had issues with the big plot twist at the end because there was zero hints throughout the book and this is something we should have had an inkling about because we literally spend the book in Kiva’s head. She knew that twist but the readers didn’t and not once is it even remotely alluded to.
The romance was also very insta love and didn’t have much depth to it especially s Kiva kept saying she didn’t like him while also thinking about him all the time. He also conveniently doesn’t get marked with the Z like every single person who is taken to the prison and especially once we find out more about him it makes sense but also convenient. He risks so much for Kiva including getting tortured despite them barely knowing each other. I just couldn’t feel invested in their relationship.
I did like Tipp and how Kiva would take care of him and that despite the awful circumstances he somehow managed to be optimistic and find joy and love. He was sweet and he needs to be protected at all costs.
The end of the story had several revelations which made the motivations of Kiva make more sense and it has intrigued me to know what will happen in the next book. Especially as it seems we will get to see more of the world as this book is set solely in the prison with some flashbacks and references. And it seems as though we will get more political intrigue which I love seeing. So I am a little intrigued to know what will happen in the next book.