Archive | August, 2012

The Pain Merchants – Janice Hardy

5 Aug

Series: The Healing Wars, #1
ISBN: 9780061747045
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult / Middle Grade
Overall Rating: 7/10

Summary:
Nya doesn’t have the talent to work in the League like her sister Tali. She is unable to heal and transfer pain into pynvium, a special kind of stone that is able to hold a person’s hurts. Instead, Nya has a different kind of talent: she can transfer pain from one person to another. Her abilities have been kept a well-guarded secret–if the Duke knew what she could do, she would be used as a weapon in his army. But when Tali goes missing, Nya will do anything to get her back. Including revealing her abilities to people who could use it against her.

Plot:
The storyline of this novel (which, I feel I should mention, is also called “The Shifter” in the US!) is unique and intriguing. People who can heal and take pain away, not so original–but that these people are largely dependent on pynvium in which to place that pain or suffer the hurts they healed themselves, that is something different. It’s also a sort of “real” aspect that I appreciate. Pain doesn’t just mysteriously vanish into the world of magic. Instead, pynvium is necessary for healing to go smoothly, and when that pynvium runs out, well–that’s when the problems start.

The first three-quarters of this book were well-executed and fun to read. I kept turning pages and finished most of it in a day. Action scenes were well-written and interactions between characters engrossing. However, I then hit a very odd chapter where it seemed like things were moving too quickly, a pace that continued for the rest of the book. I couldn’t help but wonder if the author had been forced to cut a lot out. I say that because the book is 291 pages, 3 off the “usual” 288. It read like it had been heavily edited, leaving the bones of the story for that last quarter. Actions weren’t explained as well, it felt rushed, and it felt like it could use a lot more fleshing out than it was given. In short, this book could have been much longer, and if that last quarter had been given the same amount of attention as the first part of the book, I wouldn’t have minded extra length in the least!

Characters:
I have to admit, towards the end, Nya got on my nerves a little bit. She did grow as a character but it didn’t seem like she grew all that much. As such, her “big decision” at the end which will undoubtedly lead to a sequel seemed sort of out of place–but again, this might be because the last quarter of the story felt so rushed. Otherwise, she was a nice character to follow: she didn’t act that bitter about her sister being in the League when she wasn’t, she clearly cared about family, and she struggled through some moral decisions and  knew where to draw the line.

A lot of the other characters I could take or leave. I didn’t feel overly attached to any of them, which I think is due to there being so many of them. To me, it seems like a lot of the extra characters could have been cut or combined. Poor Soek barely got any time at all, and he interested me a great deal. Aylin seemed a bit pointless and probably could have been cut entirely. There are ways Nya could have gotten around without her. I thought Danello and Jeator could have been combined into one character fairly easily, thus giving “Dantor” twice the amount of page time.

That strange chapter I mentioned before that heralded the start of that final quarter was a scene including all of these characters, making for a sort of rushed, confusing read that made me wonder why a lot of them were there. Particularly Soek, which made me sad. Again, he seemed incredibly interesting but I thought his very small role could have been done without.

Setting:
Though the actual setting wasn’t incredibly well established, I felt that I had enough of an idea to get by for a fun read. That is, the setting was a fantasy town/city, with quirky elements like healing and pynvium, but didn’t have a lot that distinguished it from other fantasies. The setting itself wasn’t especially unique. That doesn’t bother me that much. There was enough description for me to get by, and if I was looking for something “epic” I’d be reading Lord of the Rings.

That said, I do wish the political situation had been explained in a bit more detail–but that could just be me. The political situation didn’t have a lot of bearing on the actual story, but interested me in that I believe it would have set this world apart from others. There was a bit of information about it, but it left me wanting more. Of course, that’s a bit of a judgment call–after all, if it doesn’t have much to do with the storyline, why put it in there? But I think it WILL have quite a bit of bearing on the sequel, so I hope the author goes into more detail then.

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