The Healing Wars 01. The Pain Merchants by Janice Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Browsing through a packed table of sale books, my eye immediately landed on two words: Pain Merchants. As far as titles go, it's a great one to immediately classify genre and get a fantasy reader like me to grab it without reading the blurb. I wonder if I would have reacted the same way had I had read "The Shifter" on the spine instead. It's a moot question now. I saw. I grabbed. I enjoyed immensely.
The Pain Merchants is a first person tale from the point of view of Nya, an orphaned teenage girl with an extraordinary ability. Nya, of course, doesn't see this ability as particularly good. She is an anomaly in a world with a intriguing system of magic.
The world's magic system is centred on healing. Healers heal wounds and take the pain into themselves. They then transfer the pain into a stone called Pyruvium. This stone is then enchanted to inflict the pain on others during battle. It's a fairly neat symmetrical system, but of course, some chap has to spin that cycle to his own advantage.
Enter the unseen, but presumably nasty Duke. He's been invading and subduing other nations for his own nefarious purpose. I wonder if his title means that there is an unspoken and equally cruel King - the Duke is attacking these nations for *some* reason.
Nya's nation of Gevegian has been crippled by the war, and is now run by the Duke's own Baseeri. Healers and enchanters alike were taken and killed or died fighting. It is for this reason that Nya and her sister were tossed out onto the street to fend for themselves, despite coming from an aristocratic family of healers.
Nya's sister, Tali, is a healer and has been able to find purpose in the League of Healers. Nya can also heal, but she can't safely release the pain into a stone. She can only shift it into other people. She keeps this unusual ability a secret, but someone inevitably finds out. When the city has more pain than rocks or healers, this becomes a huge commodity to those same people.
While Nya has kept her ability a secret for her entire life, it doesn't mean that she is a fearful or morose character, like some characters in similar situations have been. Once her mind is made up, she will face insane odds to protect the ones she loves and those she feels responsible for. It's an admirable trait, and one I suspect is also a forgotten trait of the Gevegians themselves. Her friends and family certainly display this incredible bravery when pushed.
This book sets up a world that is a literal powder-keg with a character that can ignite it in strangely unexpected ways. I look forward to however this war may explode.
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