The Shifter (The Healing Wars: Book 1) by Janice Hardy

This is a really well-written, imaginative series that I just discovered while killing time in Borders one day.

Nya and her sister Tali are both Takers, meaning they can take another person’s pain and heal their injuries. But there’s a difference. While Tali can do what most Takers can, which is then put the pain they’ve drawn and push it into pynvium (a type of metal), Nya can only push the pain into another person. Because of this, only Tali has been able to become an apprentice of the League and study to be a Healer. This provides Tali with a bed and food. Nya, on the other hand, must fend for herself on the street and hope to scrape by. Nya must keep her ability hidden because the Baseeris, a people who have conquered and now run Geveg, might want to use her as a weapon in the coming, rumored war. When apprentices start to disappear and a mysterious man begins to follow Nya around, things get even worse for the orphan. Nya is forced to make painful choices in the hopes of surviving and protecting her sister.

I’m so impressed by Hardy’s book because it is so rich and full of backstory. The world is so real and complex and yet she manages to make everything clear for the reader nonetheless. There’s the Baseeri-Gevegian hatred, caused by the past war and the current occupation. There’s the problem of numerous orphans on the street and the people just barely scraping by. There’s rumors of war and apprentices going missing. Evil plots, greedy pain merchants who work outside the Healing League to make money by healing people (often incorrectly). There’s Nya’s secret which when exposed leads to people wanting to use her for their own schemes.

There’s rarely a pause in the action as you watch Nya, her sister, and the friends she makes along the way, navigate a dangerous world where there is more going on than they can even begin to expect.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book and didn’t find myself wanting anything more, but this book has managed it. There weren’t any questions that I wanted answered that weren’t, but there’s still more going on that I can look forward to in book 2 of the series.

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