January 2, 2012

Book Review: The Shifter by Janice Hardy

Title: The Shifter

Series: The Healing Wars, Book 1

Author: Janice Hardy

Published: 2010

Edition Read: Nook e-book

Pages: 211 e-book edition.

Grade Level Recommended: Mid-Grade

Overall: I actually didn't realize this novel was mid-grade until I checked out the author's website for a summary. A good, engaging introduction to a world of healers and those using healing as a weapon.

Summary (From author site) : Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.

Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

My Thoughts: First of all, I didn't know that this was a mid-grade novel when I started it. That would be a compliment towards Janice's ability to write a novel that appealed to someone who doesn't normally read mid-grade level novels. I could go on and on about all this, but really it's just something that surprised me when I went to the authors website to get the summary.

Moving on...

Nya lost almost her entire family in a war that left her with nothing. When her sister goes missing Nya finds herself learning more about her abilty to heal injuries. Unlike Tali, Nya does not have the ability to push that pain into an enchanted metal, pynvium, when she is done. Nya is only able to push that pain into another person. Nya finds herself scrambling everyday to get enough work to eat and pay her rent. Nya is determined to get Tali back, and learn what happened to her. The further that Nya goes to look for her sister, the more blurred the lines of healing and hurting become. Nya never wanted to face these issues of her healing abilities, but does with the singular thought that she will find her sister.

This simple premise is what makes The Shifter a really good novel. Hardy takes the issue and makes her main character face it almost every step of the way. Nya has to make decisions, and, right or wrong, she must live with them. The more that Nya must make, and live with, these decisions the more blurred the lines become. By the end of the book I found myself disagreeing and thinking of her decisions more then I think Nya allowed herself to. There are two more books to the trilogy, Blue Fire and Darkfall, both of which are already available.

What I didn't like:

Overall I really enjoyed The Shifter. The writing was well done, but had it's own things I'd like to change. Really, just nit-picky things like:

1) Cheesy moments.
Danello closed his eyes for a moment. "This is crazy."

I grinned at Aylin, and she grinned back. We both crossed our arms at the same time. "We know." (pg. 204)
Honestly, that whole little moment there? Made me think, 'OMG, so cheesy." I felt like that moment just detracted from the book. Other cheesy moments occurred, but not enough to make me not like the book. It was seldom, but still would make me roll my eyes a bit.

2) Odd descriptions.
"On the front table at Zertanik's. I figured he owed you."

I grinned wide as the lake at sunset. "This will buy a lot of dinners." (pg. 205)
Wide as the lake at sunset? The lake is wide no matter what time of day. I don't have many examples of this right off the top of my head. I had just found the highlight and note-taking function of my Nook, and realized I could take advantage of it for my review. Otherwise I'm sure I'd have quite a few more odd descriptions like that. They aren't bad, but they are distracting and detracts from the novel.

Recommended for:

I plan on picking up and reading the next book in the series, and I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy readers. Seeing as it's mid-grade I'd probably give it to them as an introduction into fantasy. The world isn't so fantastic that a reader would have a hard time getting into it, but it's still not a modern day world either. I still think that high schoolers would find this book interesting, too. I think even the hardcore fantasy readers would like this.

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