Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Healing Wars #1

The Shifter

Rate this book
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?

370 pages, Library Binding

First published September 28, 2009

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Janice Hardy

19 books344 followers
Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.

She also writes the Grace Harper series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing fiction, she runs the popular writing site Fiction University, and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It), Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, and the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,735 (28%)
4 stars
2,238 (36%)
3 stars
1,606 (26%)
2 stars
379 (6%)
1 star
123 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 491 reviews
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
July 19, 2017
Classified as Young Adult fantasy but there is still plenty in it for older adults. I enjoyed it very much.
The world building is done competetently and cleverly. We often come across healers in fantasy novels but these healers actually absorb and hold their patients pain until they can move it on into a kind of magic rock. You can imagine the difficulties this could incur!
Our main character is a strong, feisty young woman who (naturally) has greater powers than anyone else but is only just beginning to discover them. This is a pretty normal plot line for this genre but the author writes the character well and she develops nicely throughout the book.
There is lots of action and drama and the pacing is good. Only tiny hints of romance occur but Nya has several available young men to choose from in future books in the series.
A nice, easy read and recommended for fans of fantasy.
Profile Image for Kirsty (Amethyst Bookwyrm).
630 reviews73 followers
January 31, 2016
Nya, an orphan who is struggling to survive, is an unusual taker, unlike most takers, including her sister Tali, she cannot push the pain she heals from someone into pynvium but into another person. With another war on the horizon she is desperate for work and food but doesn’t want to be used as a weapon. When Nya’s sister disappears along with other league healers, Nya has to make a difficult choices and bargains, but are they worth the cost?

The Shifter is an enjoyable YA fantasy book and while it is a fun read it does have some dark themes to it. It has a hint of romance and interesting magic but it did struggled to keep my interest. I felt like there should be a prequel novella which looks at the war, as it is a big influence in this book.

Nya is tough and wary of people, but those she knows she is very loyal to, she also has to make choices that she shouldn’t have to make, especially at her age. There are some enjoyable secondary characters in this book, such as Danello, Tali and Aylin, but I they are a bit forgettable.

The Shifter is a likable book and I would recommend to fans of YA fantasy books.

This and my other reviews can be found at Amethyst Bookwyrm
Profile Image for K.M. Weiland.
Author 32 books2,296 followers
November 22, 2014
From the very first scene, I knew I was safely in the hands of an author who knew what she was doing. Hardy weaves a nice tale based on a charmingly unique and possibility-ridden premise: what if healing hurt? She creates a convincing little cosmos for her characters, raises the stakes high from the beginning, and keeps the action rolling from page one. I appreciated that she presents her main character with tough choices and makes her live through their consequences. Gorgeous cover too!
Profile Image for Paradoxical.
351 reviews34 followers
October 14, 2012
It took a little bit to pinpoint what bothered me about this book. It had an interesting concept, but it fell flat for me throughout the entirety of the book, and even when I finished reading it I just sort of stared, shrugged, and felt kind of 'meh'.

What bugged me, I think, is that while I love action, I love racing from scene to scene and one crisis to another, there was little other than that. Plot is good. Lots of plot is good. But if you overwhelm the story with what you (the author) want to spit out in a rush, then other things fall by the wayside. Like the characters. You get a mess load of Nya's thoughts and feelings (they felt mostly bland to me, but at least they were there), but everyone else is monotone. Her sister, her best friend, and the rest just sort of melted down into a pile of Everyone Else and unfortunately stayed there. The villains were lackluster, which was truly unfortunate.

Then there's the racing along from one crisis to the next. I like this. I like things happening. But if it keeps happening, if the entire book is one big crisis, then the overall tone is, well, flat. A speedy sort of flat, but still flat. I also wasn't pleased with the fact that practically all Baseeri were horrible people. I understand that we're looking at it through Nya's eyes, that her country was invaded by these people, but you don't see a single decent Baseeri throughout the entire book (or at least a single decent action made by a Baseeri). It's very easy to fall into the this-group-of-people-is-good and this-group-of-people-is-bad sort of mentality, but I wanted something a little more complicated at least.

The concept is an interesting one. The execution left something to be desired. 2 stars.
469 reviews69 followers
August 22, 2010
Description from the book jacket: “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 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?”

This description doesn’t accurately portray the plot of the book. First, the pain merchant is less a catalyst than a vaguely threatening side story and a source of occasional guilt for the heroine. Second, her sister is only missing for about 20 pages before Nya sneaks into the League headquarters and gets her out with relatively little trouble. It’s hardly what’s driving the action, and it’s certainly not the main predicament.

My biggest problem with this book was the non-existent character development. The entire plot was action driven: run away from this guy, run away from that guy, break into this place and then run away from a bunch of people, then break in again and run away from even more people. Hardy didn’t spend any time introducing the reader to the personalities or feelings of the secondary characters; heck, she didn’t really even do this with Nya. Nya is surrounded by at least five secondary characters, but none of them make an impact. The story is told in first-person from Nya’s point of view, so you don’t get their perspectives, and in many novels, that’s fine. But usually, in these instances, the narrator thinks critically and carefully about the people he/she is surrounded with, since the reader can only form opinions and get information based on the narrator’s impressions. Nya only occasionally stops to consider her own thoughts and actions and she spends most of her time worrying about getting caught, when she isn’t “getting knocked on her butt” which happened no less than five times, using that exact phrasing. Most of the time, I found her irritating because she was so one dimensional. The characters were all very flat. It was kind of like watching someone read a script while standing motionless, then getting to part of the script where they run and watching them bolt to the edge of the stage and then stand there motionless again. As far as I can tell, they don’t have feelings or opinions on much of anything.

I’m finding it hard to explain why this book has both irked and bored me. The premise was kind of cool, but the execution was sub-par and the writing was unremarkable. I got through it in about 2.5 hours and I was glad when it was over because that meant I didn’t have to keep reading. I got it from the library, so at least I didn’t waste any money.

2 stars for a book that did not impress.
Profile Image for Mery.
Author 38 books208 followers
April 1, 2015
Nya, seorang gadis yatim piatu yang memiliki kemampuan sebagai Taker. Dia bisa merasakan rasa sakit milik seseorang, menariknya, dan menyimpannya ke dalam tubuh.

Tapi berbeda dengan adiknya, Tali, dan para Taker lainnya, bakat Nya ga sempurna. Dia ga bisa memasukkan rasa sakit itu ke dalam pynvium, sebuah benda tersihir yang bisa menampung rasa sakit. Alih-alih, Nya bisa memindahkan rasa sakit tersebut ke dalam tubuh orang lain. oleh karena itu Nya hidup susah di jalanan, sementara adiknya tinggal di sekolah asrama khusus para Penyembuh. Selain itu tentunya Nya harus menyembunyikan bakatnya, kalau tidak dia akan dijadikan senjata mematikan oleh penguasa kota.

Hidup susah membawa Nya pada suatu kejadian di mana dia harus menggunakan bakatnya untuk melarikan diri. Hal itu terdengar oleh seorang pedagang tamak yang ingin memanfaatkan bakat Nya yang istimewa.

Sementara itu murid-murid magang mulai menghilang secara misterius. Ketika yang hilang selanjutnya adalah Tali, adiknya, Nya diharuskan membuat suatu keputusan yang sulit dalam hidupnya...

Sukaaaa sukaaa sukaaa banget buku ini.


Nya keren... banget! Nih cewek bukan tipe cewek lemah yang jatuh ke pelukan cowok. Bukan. Saat dia mesti nyelamatin adiknya, dia ngelakuin itu sendirian. Modalnya cuma satu: bakatnya.
Emang agak sadis pas dia masukin rasa sakit ke orang-orang, tapi apa yang dilakuin semata-mata karena dia emang harus.

Belum lagi pas dia masuk ke Liga buat nyari, dia nemuin banyak kebusukan di sana. Misteri hilangnya murid-murid magang. Hingga misi dia buat nyelamatin Tali berlipat ganda. Nya bukan tokoh yang cuma bermisi nyelamatin adiknya trus goler2 di tempat tidur! Bukan...


Penyembuh. Taker. Pemindah. ahhh keren.
Belum pernah baca fantasi yang kayak gini. Yah makanya aku agak norak ;D
Si tokohnya ga bisa sihir. Tapi dia punya bakat buat nyembuhin orang. Walau bakatnya agak berbeda dan berbahaya.

Trus tentang pynvium. Pynvium ini kayak logam gitu. Logam yang digunain buat nampung rasa sakit. Jadi kalo ga ada pynvium, gimana coba rakyat di sana... :D


walau pas awal bingung ama istilah2 pynvium, taker, shifter, healer tapi plotnya enak buat diikutin. Serasa ngalir aja gitu. Walau si Nya orangnya rada-rada garing ;D

Yah intinya sih suka aja... pengen beli bukunya... secara covernya bagus. Tapi ternyata mau diterbitin ama Terakota.. semoga pake cover aslinya. ;D
Profile Image for Bookyurt.
56 reviews7 followers
October 28, 2010
The Shifter is a lovely change of pace from standard fantasy fare – no knights here, and no vampires, werewolves, or witches either. Instead I found a fascinating world, where Healers are a magic resource that can be used to fuel a war, where the politics of conquest cause poverty and helplessness, and where a war-made orphan is determined to do whatever is necessary to save her sister.

The loss of everything she ever had is the crucible that molded Nya, a desperate and determined girl. Her matter of fact acceptance of her lot is heartbreaking, especially with the reveals of what her life was like before the war, the family she used to have. Now she is scrambling to survive, a second class citizen in a conquered nation, and with rumors of war and refugees flooding the city, it’s only going to get worse.

Nya is a wonderful character – wry, flawed, stubborn and loyal. Her struggle to survive is the perfect backdrop for the morally questionable choices she has to face as a result of her growing power. I love how nothing is ever easy or simple for Nya, how the forces of the larger world keep acting upon her life, and how some of the things she has to do haunt her.

The politics of power and the struggle to control the healers add a fascinating texture to this story. The world building is woven so deftly into Nya’s narrative you hardly notice its arrival, and plenty of action propels this story forward from the first page. Wrap it all up with a satisfying conclusion and you have one thoroughly enjoyable read.

Still, there are many questions left to be answered and plenty of hardships left for Nya to face. And I can’t help being greedily happy that I only discovered this book now, because it means I don’t have long to wait for the next one (Blue Fire comes out October 1).

So if you’re a Kristen Cashore fan, this is definitely one for you.

Byrt Grade: A
Profile Image for Chris Cutler.
Author 1 book33 followers
January 6, 2016
From reading the dust jacket I already loved the magic system. By half-way through chapter 1 I was smiling along with the voice of the book, and by the end of the chapter I was impressed with the pacing of the story. The rest of the book was just as good.

One of the really great things about this book is that the characters are entirely self-consistent. Their actions may not always be expected, but to a point they make sense based on who the character is, including age, personality, and motivations.

The magic system lived up to my expectations, and even became more developed than I anticipated.

My only two critiques are not actually downsides:
First, the world of Geveg that Hardy creates is quite original, despite the resemblances of culture, geography, linguistics, and personal description between Geveg and various locales in our own world. I spent quite a bit of time during and after reading it futilely trying to place it regionally on the globe. (The best I could come up with was a mix of Italy and Egypt, but the character and place names are still throwing me.)
Second, the final denouement didn't content itself with wrapping things together for a stand alone book, but instead started building in anticipation of the rest of the series; I would prefer a conclusion with mysteries to be solved later rather than a direct lead-in to the next adventure. Don't get me wrong--I am excited for the continuation, which can only be more exciting. I am guessing a trilogy, but would love a 4th (or 5th) book to follow our characters through rebuilding after we finally beat the bad guys and win the Healing Wars.
Profile Image for Becky.
263 reviews120 followers
January 9, 2014
I really was completely indifferent to most of this story. I skimmed the better part of the book after establishing the main characters and who I needed to follow.

Not that entertaining at all until the last five minutes where there was a hint of interest from the MC to the one guy I preferred. It might be enough for me to read the next one if it's free.

Profile Image for Jodi Meadows.
Author 31 books4,630 followers
May 26, 2011
Awesome! Quick pace, good plot, fantastic voice.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
885 reviews123 followers
February 24, 2016
3.5 Stars

Full Review:
This was a bit of an out-of-the-norm read for me because middle grade is not my preferred genre, and high fantasy is not my preferred genre, so middle grade high fantasy is really not my preferred genre. But I had my reasons for wanting to try this series, and I ended up really enjoying it! I found myself laughing, being drawn to the characters, and reading each book in just a day or two because I had to know what was going to happen.

The first great thing I noticed when I started reading was how funny the book was—and it was a really great all-ages humor. The main character was a young teen, but I’m in my 20s and was still cracking up.

The characters though were the main reason I enjoyed the series and decided to read the whole thing. I debated whether to include my thoughts on the characters in this review or the review for the final book, but I want anyone deciding whether to start or not to know about the wonderful characters they’ll find in the book. So even though these are my opinions based on the entire trilogy, I’ll keep them as spoiler-free as possible.

Danello – He was such a sweetheart! I adored him from the very first book. Heck, the very first scene. He may have had “the street smarts of a hen,” but he was so caring and kind and loyal that it’s impossible to not love him.


Vyand – She may have been greedy, but, if there’s one thing you can say about her, it’s that, when she was getting paid, she took her job seriously and put in the work to earn that money.

Halima – She was only the cutest eight-year-old ever.

Aylin – She really needed to get off her high horse, but I can’t hold that against her too much since she was a great friend to Nya.

Quenji – He just cracked me up. And he was a good guy—minus the thievery, of course.

Nya – Though she wasn’t my favorite in the series, she was still a good protagonist who always did her best, even when it was hard for her, and cared about her sister more than anything.

The pacing was also great, and the world building seemed good, but, again, I’m not as familiar with this genre as others, I just know lovable characters when I see ’em! If you are a middle grade and/or high fantasy person though, you’ll probably like the book and series even more than I did.

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes middle grade high fantasy and lovable characters.

Original Review on Blog
Profile Image for Lisa Nocita.
1,010 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2011
Nya is a taker. She can take pain, illness, and injury from those who are afflicted with a touch. Her father was an enchanter, one who prepared the rock to hold such misery, and her mother was a healer. Her grandmother held the highest office before their country was conquered by a power hungry, land grabbing duke. The world is a harsh place for those on the bottom rungs of the social order; the new regime is unfriendly to the native inhabitants. Only the healers still have a useful and much needed talent to offer. Orphaned during the political upheaval, Nya makes sure her younger sister, Tali, is accepted as an apprentice healer so she will always have a comfortable bed to sleep in and regular meal times. Nya cannot become a healer, or so she believes because she cannot shift that pain and illness to an inanimate, highly prized rock called pynium used by her people. She can, however, shift or transfer the pain to another person or hold onto it herself. Nya's talent is unique and Nya fears what would happen if anyone found out the true nature of her abilities. But of course circumstances conspire and her abilities are discovered by those who would use it for their own greed and corrupt plans. Nya is forced to make difficult decisions while lives hang in the balance.

Often my first comment about a fantasy novel is to encourage potential readers to hang in through the early chapters of world building. The action rarely starts in medias res. Often times patience and perseverance will reward you with rollicking action and adventure later with a cast of characters you feel familiar with and connected to. The Shifter, however, jumps right into the fray and drags the reader along. This was both unique and annoying. I really didn't feel like I understood (or cared much about) what was happening in the plot. Boiled down it's basically a spunky, feisty, teenaged, female protagonist fighting for daily survival in a hostile and unfriendly world who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight and unwanted battle to thwart corrupt, greedy colonial politicos AND discovers she has unique, amazing abilities that make her the odds on favorite for defeating all the bad guys. Supporting characters are plentiful but mostly undeveloped except for a few superficial traits which we have to accept form the basis for our warrior's inner circle. I would have actually preferred more world building and character building. This might have made the premise less ambiguous for me. As is, I will probably pass on the rest of the series. I think it is a passable fantasy but probably not the strongest entry in the genre.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,324 reviews153 followers
June 10, 2016
3.5 stars. The Shifter reminded me a little bit of Touch of Power by Maria Snyder, but it's more of a middle grade book.

I really liked the main character and her struggle with her healing ability. There are some heartbreaking things that happen and that's when I felt the most connection to the story. The supporting characters were also all good.

The story is written more simply because it's middle grade and that is one reason I'm not always a fan of reading middle grade books. Just a teeny bit more depth would have set this set this one apart from most. I'm considering reading the next book in the trilogy, but not sure if I'll ever get around to it. I do highly recommend it for the age it is meant for.
June 4, 2015
This book just was NOT what I expected. I expected a girl who didnt know what to do with herself, living off her sister´s money. Not a girl making a living doing differnt jobs. The book was quite good. I just didnt like the . I just hope I can read the next books in the series.

P.D. This is the 3rd book i finished reading today (this was useless information brought to you by lala_loopsie)

THANKSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS for this Goodreads!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Emma.
534 reviews14 followers
June 9, 2017
I found this book very original and very exciting to read. It is one of those books where, you read the blurb and think this seems like it might be ok so you buy it, and when you start reading you cannot put it down! I quickly bought the rest of the series. I recommend this book to people who like fantasy.
Profile Image for Anita.
719 reviews56 followers
June 6, 2016
More like a 2.5 Star read since it teeters very much in the "MEH" category. But I have to admit that once the show got going, I found enough enjoyment in it to continue reading the rest of the series. At the very least, there's a sense of, "Hmm, what's next?" going on here.

The characters weren't relatable; the heroes were flat and unexciting and the villains were kind of comical (I kept envisioning a creepy looking dude with a curling mustache and twirling it while plotting to do evil). The world was developed decently, but not experienced very well; it all sounds well and good on paper, but kind of boring and flat in action. Worse yet was the Healing/Magic system, which I'll get into in detail later.

There's too much "black and white" in this story when a lot hinges on gray area concerning Nya, the heroine's own moral dilemma's concerning her powers. The people seem to be set in absolute categories: they're either good or bad, heroes or villains... well, all aside from one particular character, Jeatar. He's just confusing.

The Shifter had an extremely info-dump-ish and slow start. And yet at the same time, I'm still not sure I understand how the world of The Healing Wars or the magic system works. The healing skills were explained in a very tedious fashion without actually telling you how the whole process works. I mean, it took 75% of the book to acknowledge that pynvium cannot be reused--it becomes pretty much dead rock after it takes in pain and then is used as a weapon to inflict more pain. I spent a lot of time wondering why the healers don't just re-purchase used pynvium to continue unloading pain into; why pynvium was such an expensive, yet rare and valuable resource aside from the obvious.

And it took about 50% of the book for me to realize how the healing process MIGHT work, because I'm still not really certain I understand it correctly.

Takers are able to heal people by drawing the injured's pain into themselves. Following, they must endure said pain until they can dump that pain into pynvium. Sometimes they are just manifested as aches and sores; other times the pain is so excruciating that it could render a Healer immobile. Then there are Pain Merchants who draw pain into themselves without actually healing people sometimes if they can get away with it--take the pain and make the victims think they've been healed, but leave the injuries that will eventually kill that person... or heal on its own.

But where do the injuries go? The broken bones, the bruises, the bleeds, and the crushed organs? Do they just stitch themselves once the pain is gone? Does the healing process in one's body speed up once the pain has been drawn away? But we've already been told that drawing away pain doesn't mean a healed body. What strange magic is this, unexplained, that actually heals the wounded?

And then what's the point in having a distinction between Pain Merchants and actual League Healers? Don't they both do the same thing? Because I'd spent a good part of the book thinking that the "real" League Healers also drew the injuries and wounds into themselves as well, relieving victims of their hurts. That maybe the Healers just have a higher tolerance for healing their own bodies and just need to handle it until they can get back to their League home to dump the pain and injuries and wounds into that big pynvium Slab.

Except, apparently I thought wrong because the League Healers also only draw pain into themselves while healing their patients at the same time... and so that brings me back to... where do the wounds and injuries go? How does it get healed? And what's the point in Pain Merchants being utter assholes and only drawing away the pain, but leaving the wounds if it doesn't cost them anymore than drawing the pain away would?

See... I still don't quite understand how this whole deal works.

And don't even get me started on the plausibility of other magics being involved in this book. Nya makes infrequent, yet obviously significant mentions of her father as an enchanter who "tells the pynvium to absorb pain" or something like that, but that set of skills is never explored further aside from passing mentions in flashbacks. There's still a lot of development to be made concerning the magic system in this world that I'm still having a hard time trying to grasp.

Either things aren't making any sense or things aren't being presented properly. It's all so vague.

The whole book has its appeal since it does draw those lines between right and wrong using Nya's shifting powers as a base. There's an entire "How can Nya's powers be used for good if it really just causes more pain?" type of scenario. Nya is a Taker like all the rest of the Healers, but she is incapable of dumping her drawn-in pain into pynvium. Instead, she can only dump pain into another person... which defeats the whole purpose of being a Healer, because, apparently, in order to save one person, she'd have to kill someone else since apparently shifting pain has even more dire consequences.

So now Nya must continue to figure out her niche in life and how she can be a hero to her people (at the age of fifteen, yo) by using her special, yet deadly powers. She needs to make decisions and depend upon her moral compass to tell her what the lesser of two evils is and when it would actually be justifiable to use her powers. It's an interesting concept that I would like to explore more of.

Then I'm reminded that when Healers draw pain from the injured, they go and dump it into pynvium which then gets molded and formed into weapons and sold to people who are intent on war... It still comes full circle: Healing one person, in the end, comes back to hurting others. The pain just travels and never really goes away.

Which brings me back to: Where do the wounds and the injuries go? Because we've established that removing the pain doesn't necessarily make the injuries go away. How are people healed? Is it some other special skill or is it something that "just happens" when a Healer draws pain? I'm so confused. If the pain doesn't actually ever go away and circulates the world, how do the injuries and wounds that caused that pain in the first place just disappear?

And another thing that bothers me: The people in this world rely entirely too absolutely and heavily on Takers to heal all their injuries (broken bones to bruises) and only once throughout the entire book was the word "salve" used for some superficial scrapes and bruises. I'm not even sure there's any mention anywhere else about using more traditional or common means of treating injuries. Like how you can just wash and bandage up a cut and let your own body heal itself; or putting some soothing ointment (or salve) on scrapes and such and letting those injuries heal on their own.

I can understand going to extremes with the less accessible injuries such as internal bleeding, broken bones, and crushed organs. But those have proven to be quite the intense pain for even Healers to be able to handle. But then again, it seems like once they manage to deposit that pain somewhere else, their recovery time is almost immediate. I don't know, it all just feels too convenient for me.

It just would make more sense if the Healers also knew how to treat the wounded without relying completely on Takers relieving their patients of all their pain while healing them. I mean, as cliche as this sounds, sometimes enduring pain is how we learn to get stronger. Taking away all the pain as a means of healing would only make people weaker. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm hoping this issue will be addressed in the coming books.

Then again, that's because I still haven't quite comprehended the world and the magic system. Maybe things will make more sense as the series continues, but I have a feeling we'll just focus more on Nya's journey to finding herself while saving the world (at the age of fifteen, yo... and with friends). She's a smart girl, despite the whole, "act before you think" thing, so I'm still intrigued with her.

It's just that... The entire story also kind of reads like an overdone, rushed through hero versus evil villain plot. It's very straight forward, very simple, and everything just falls into place that's necessary for our hero to save the world without much backing to her own deductions on how the villains are planning things and making his moves. Everything is just entirely too convenient. There is no questioning of how our heroine knows all of these "facts" that she has deduced on her own without concrete evidence. She says it's happening this way, so it must obviously be right.

On top of that, I felt like there was a lot more "telling" in the narration rather than just letting the reader deduct their own opinions. Towards the end, the characters got pretty preachy to the point where I was wondering if the author didn't trust the readers to come up with their own opinions concerning the controversies and philosophies in the story. I felt like I was being told what I should be taking away from the story of The Shifter.

Nonetheless, I still managed to find enjoyment in this book and maybe that's all that matters.
Profile Image for Karin Leifler.
Author 5 books3 followers
July 29, 2018
What I liked most about this book was that it felt fresh and unique. The main character, Nya, has the ability to heal people´s injuries by touching them. However, her ability is flawed, since she can not transfer the pain into the material, pynvium, that the healers in this fantasy world use to get rid of the pain they have collected from their patients. I have not come across a book where magical healing is written about in this way, as not purely good but as something that can be used for sinister purposes as well, which makes The Shifter interesting and fresh.
Nya thinks of her ability as flawed, but it turns out she can do things that other Takers can not do. Of course, this puts her into trouble, fast. She is forced to make quick and morally difficult decisions when thing escalate out of her hands.
Nya is a streetwise and tough character with an interesting past and caring heart, and I love her voice and way of looking at the world. I was immediately invested in her struggles and how the difficulties would turn out, not only for Nya but also for the people she got to know along the way.
Profile Image for Jamie Dacyczyn.
1,614 reviews89 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
August 22, 2021
DNFed shortly after 100 pages. All plot, no character development. The fact that I made it so far into this book shows how action-forward this book was...I didn't really get a break to stop and think about anything besides this happened and then this happened and then this happened. Then, two evenings in a row I found myself picking this up and just not being interested in continuing, stuck around that 100 page mark.

This book is written in first-person, but I really can't say much about the main character. I can't really discern their age from their voice or actions, I can't say what they look like, or even what gender they are (or aren't). I'm sure all of these are in the actual text somewhere, but it didn't stick for me.

So yeah, I was able to read through the beginning of this book pretty easily, until I stopped for breath...and then I lost interest. Skimmed some other reviews to see that many others also felt a lack of character depth, so I guess it doesn't improve. I think if I finished this, it would be at most a 3 star book, which is fine....but I want to move onto a book that I hopefully LOVE.
Profile Image for Samantha (Book Lover's Cozy Cafe).
504 reviews214 followers
January 31, 2017
This book was kind of similar to the Poison Study and Glass Study books written by Maria V. Snyder. But instead of people having different magics, these people only had Takers or Healers as some are called. They are able to take pain out of people and put it into a thing called pynvium. Nya though is special, she can take pain away just like her younger sister Talia, but she can't put the pain into the pynvium, she can transfer pain from one person to another. Neat little weapon if you piss her off right? Right! Well the pynvium slab at where Nya lives is full and who knows when the next shipment is supposed to be, this is where Nya meets a boy who I'm gonna call Don, he asks her to save his da, and to do that he asked her to "Shift" the pain to him and his younger twin brothers. She is reluctant cause this pain is not their pain and won't go away. But she does it, then she gets into the hands of a dealer of sorts someone who takes pain and sells pain amulets and stuff. Well he gets a hold of Nya and has her do a "shifting" again she is reluctant to do it because it's part of the people who had taken over her land. She does it of course, then her sister goes missing, so then she has to go find her and when she does she finds that all the apprentices of the League which is where Nya's sister Talia is going to become a healer and stuff, but the apprentices are all sick with pain because they have been filled up to much with it. She then sneaks back out and makes another deal with the dealer then Don's sister tells her the boys are dying, troubled now with saving her sister and Don and his brothers she goes back to the dealer and makes a deal with him. She saves Don and his brothers, and goes back to save her sister.... Meanwhile people are rioting because of being told all the apprentices are dead, and Nya, Don, and her friend Aly I'm gonna call her all make their way in with a help of one of the guards who is Aly's friend and, what not but before they wen too the league to rescue the apprentices mainly Nya's sister she finds out she can flash the pynvium, which is basically use them as weapons shifting the pain out of the stone or metal whatever it is. but not only that she can refill them.... so they go get into the league and back into the room where the apprentices are being held and starts healing them all while Nya attacks the door with the filled up pynvium. So that Talia can heal the rest of the apprentices... well after a attempted escape Nya is captured and once again meeting the dealer plus the Big man in charge of the league in their region, and she finds out they are thieving the pynvium, so she does something drastic and ends up killing them, thus saving the day, the apprentices, and the people she had shifted too.... then at the end had claimed war against the Duke, who is the man responsible for all their troubles in their region.

I liked this book, it was pretty creative and kept me interested, I'm going to continue on with this series and see how it turns out, cause so far I'm highly intrigued for sure.
Profile Image for A..
Author 11 books1,338 followers
August 5, 2009
When Healers lay hands on injured people they can absorb the injury and pain into their own bodies, and later move it from themselves into a stone called pynvium. At least they can in the medieval fantasy world created by Janice Hardy in her middle grade novel, The Shifter, due out in October.

The story centers around 15 year old Nya who is a Healer...but with a defect. She can only shift the pain and injury into other people, not pynvium. This little 'quirk' is something she and her younger sister, Talia, a normal healer, keep secret because they're not sure if the Duke would have Nya killed or use her as a weapon in his wars.

Talia lives at the League doing her regular healing stuff while Nya is left struggling on the streets, working when she can to keep from starving. Formally wealthy, the girls were orphaned and left penniless and alone when their parents were killed fighting during the last war. Talia helps her sister when she can but, for both their sakes, can't jeopardize her place in the league. The opening of the book finds Nya getting caught stealing eggs and I liked how the opening chase gets the story rolling with exciting action.

Soon Nya's secret is uncovered by a nefarious fellow and Talia is in eminent danger. Nya must use her gift in ways she dislikes in order to not only save her sister but other Healers in the league, and foil a political plot that could put the whole town in danger. In the process she also discovers abilities she never knew she had.

The Shifter starts out with a bang and, other than a few slow steps, keeps rolling quickly. Hardy covers a lot of ground. She touches on prejudice, moral choices, what should be given up for the greater good, family/friend loyalty, accepting yourself and others, personal sacrifice, and even throws in a pinch of romance between Nya and the young guard who chases her down in the first couple of pages. Every now and then the messages go to the brink of being too heavy handed but not too often and Hardy backs off just before becoming preachy.

Nya is likeable and believeable for the most part. She seemed to dither back and forth a lot. She'd have an epiphany but later rethink her position. That got mildly annoying about 3/4's into the book, but Nya and her little band of friends and family are characters you definitely care for and you're rooting for them to win in the end. Even the 'bad' guys had some depth and weren't simply two dimensional.

Hardy utilizes good description and some great lines. My favorite was when a ferry accident occurs during a storm and Nya can't get out into the water to help all the survivors. She says, "My heart reached farther than my hands ever could." How beautiful!

Good suspense, nasty political intrigue, a few surprises and a great twist on Nya's abilities. Overall The Shifter is a very enjoyable middle grade novel that is worth the read.
Profile Image for Becky.
391 reviews72 followers
January 3, 2010
After reading the above blurb, I was so excited to begin The Pain Merchants. I thought the premise sounded fascinating and also thought-provoking. I found myself wondering about the moral implications of having an ability like the main character Nya. Why would you remove a person's pain just to give it to another person? Can purposefully causing another person pain ever be acceptable or morally right? I had expectations that The Pain Merchants would make me face ethical dilemmas and consider the importance of the most basic human rights.

Sadly, this was not the reading experience that the book provided. Although the premise was interesting, it failed in the execution of the idea. We read the story from Nya's perspective and follow her as she tries to survive in a flawed society. She is an isolated character who also happens to be the heroine of the story. Even though she was likeable, she was not all that interesting. Yet she is the character who is facing the ethical dilemma of whether to use her ability to shift pain from one person to another. I expected her to be more internally tortured by her actions. I don't wish to mislead. Nya knows shifting pain is in principle wrong and she doesn't actually want to do it. But surely, causing physical agony to another person would burn the inner workings of your heart and mind? At least, I know this is what it would do to me. This is where I should have found myself relating most to Nya and I found that I simply didn't find her character fully developed or believeable.

The plot seemed to flow and then stop, almost rhymthically so. At one moment I'd start to think "at last this is getting interesting" and then I'd be sighing because the story had lost my interest again. The most interesting parts of the story were when Nya was connecting with other characters. Danello and Soek were easier to relate to and in some ways admire. I wonder if the story would have been more enjoyable if either of them had been the narrator.

The Pain Merchants is certainly an original concept and Hardy did create an engaging setting for her story. The corrupt world in which Nya tries to hide her shifting ability is well-crafted and portrayed as appropriately brutal. Yet I think at times this worked against the telling of the story, the governance of the city was difficult to understand. There was the Duke, The Pain Merchants, The League and the Luminary all working towards their own ends. I often felt confused as to which person or group followed or controlled and this added to my sense of the plot dragging.

Overall, in The Pain Merchants Hardy explores a fascinating premise yet she fails to execute it in the most gripping and thought-provoking way. At times I liked elements of the story but I failed to relate to the main character. It is unlikely that I will read the next book but I noticed on Amazon there are many positive reviews of this book.
Profile Image for Cornerofmadness.
1,643 reviews10 followers
November 22, 2011
The Shifter by Janice Hardy

This was a YA I had been wanting to read and a friend lent it to me. It opens in a place that reminds me of eighteenth century Europe right down to various dukes invading and conquering their neighbors. It opens in conquered Geveg centering on Nya, a young woman living hand to mouth after the death of her parents and grandmother during the war (that the Gevegians lost). Her sister Tali is a little luckier, having a magical ability to heal people by drawing out their pain and dumping it in a stone slab. She has entered the ranks of the League of Healers. Nya can heal as well but she has a rogue power. She can't get rid of the pain. She can only shift it to others. She knows never to do this.

Unfortunately for Nya, finding work is next to impossible and she's attracted the attention of someone who might be the Duke's men. There is a rumor the Duke would make people like her into assassins which she wants nothing to do with. Even more unfortunate, she shifts pain into a guard, Danello, trying to get to way and he later wants her help to save his father by having him and his brothers take the injuries that would kill their father. Soon afterward a ferry accident takes all the league of healers has to offer but when she checks on Tali, Nya realizes something is wrong at the League, that all the non-Baseeri (i.e. the conquerors) healers are disappearing.

Fearing for her sister's life, Nya makes a deal with the devil, to help a pain merchant, who will in turn help her help her sister. However, something is going wrong with the shifted pain. Worse, it looks like Tali and the other healers are being betrayed from within and if it gets out, war might ensue. Nya has to save her sister and her people.

It is a well told story and it had a strong female protagonist but, like I've said way too many times this year in YA, it's a good story but I didn't connect with the characters. I liked it but I didn't love it. It is book one in a series but thankfully it finished this arc by the end of book one. I hate that new trend where they just trundle to a non-ending and pick up in book two so that's a plus. It's a good book and I think YA fantasy readers will enjoy it.
Profile Image for Reading Sarah.
113 reviews15 followers
August 10, 2009
In Nya's world pain is a product to be bought and sold. Many people, including Nya, can take pain and heal. Unlike most people though, Nya can't transfer the pain into the Pynvium stone that is later shaped into pain-dealing weapons. Nya is instead, a Shifter, she can act as a conduit, shifting pain from one person to another, sometimes holding the pain to herself for a time. She's unusual and dangerous and valuable to those who lack scruples enough to use her when the Pynvium supply runs low.

The premise alone really sucked me into this intricate novel. Nya is spunky and determined, realistic about the bad things that will probably happen, but willing to go through them anyway to save those she cares about. She's such a likable character that some of the slower moments of the book are made quite a bit more tolerable by extension. And the ending (part of a planned series it seems, being that it is the Healing Wars #1) is very snap, bang, whizzle! The beginning draws the reader in with instant action and excitement. But then in the middle there's a lot of tension but also a lot of: "and then I went here and did this thing and then I went here and did this other thing and over here I was doing this stuff and really it is all totally relevant I swear and have I mentioned that I hate this race of people who invaded our land and treat us like crap? Let me reflect with you for a moment on how evil imperialism is and how happy I was before it darkened my doorstep...Nevermind that I am very young to remember life before the invasion so very well! Or at least, those three memories I keep telling you about over and over."
So what I'm saying here is that it is good that the ending suddenly speeds it all up again. And, good characters can definitely redeem indulgent editing.
Profile Image for Librariann.
1,440 reviews45 followers
December 31, 2009
Ages 10+ (one "ass", violence, general complexity)

I'm not sure what to think about this one. It's hard to wrap my head around genuine world-built fantasy sometimes (although I have no problem with science fiction, huh). New vocabulary must be absorbed, passages demand re-reading in order to understand them. But the story of Nya, an orphan in an defeated and culturally oppressed country, is terribly intriguing.

See, Nya is from a family of Healers, folks with a magical bent who can absorb pain and push it into an incredibly valuable metal called pynvium. But unlike her sister Tali (an apprentice at the League of Healers) she can't sense or push into pynvium - she can only take pain and shift it to another person. This makes her useless in her society. Or so she thinks. When her skill is inadvertently exposed, a group of sinister men offer her deals for her services. And she wouldn't necessarily take them up on it - except for Tali's suddenly disappeared, and Nya needs their money and supplies to find her, as well as the other missing apprentices.

A fascinating culture is built here, much like The City of Ember or the Stravaganza series, and this is only the first book in the Healing Wars. Political and ethnic tension may go over the heads of younger readers, but would make this a very interesting book for a discussion group. I can't spoil the conclusion, but needless to say Nya comes of this first tome a blazing young Jean d'Arc, and it seems like her story will only become more exciting in further volumes.

Not a can't put it downer, but definitely an I want to find out what happens-er. Those who are more fantasy savvy than me will enjoy it, perhaps even love it.
Profile Image for Rayann.
48 reviews38 followers
December 26, 2011
I was excited to read this book. I hadn't read a story like this before, with healers drawing pain unto themselves (although I have heard of A Touch of Power).

It was a nice story and action-packed. I liked the protagonist, Nya, although I don't like her name. She's strong and independent, a good female heroine. She was also fiercely protective of her sister, and willing to do everything in order to protect her family. Definitely an admirable trait. The other characters were also fun and didn't just feel like ink on paper.

The thing I really liked about this book was the battle about morals and principles that the protagonist had to struggle with throughout the book. She had the power to transfer pain from one person to another and she constantly questioned herself, whether it was the right thing to do, whether she had the right to choose the fate that people have chosen for themselves.

There was a line in this book, something that said, making a choice and having no choice to do something are two different things. I think there's a thin line between the two. Doing something because there's no choice but to do so, or doing something because you chose to despite the difficulties. It's similar to choosing what's right, I think. You either choose what's right or what's easy.

However, I didn't feel the fear of the Duke, the Luminary and the others that I think the author wanted to convey in her story. Her villains fell flat for me. And the story at the beginning was great, but afterwards I felt that the pacing was too fast and it the action was being rushed all at once.

Overall, it was okay, which judging by the Goodreads system is 2 stars. Though I probably would have rated it higher had I read this when I was younger.
Profile Image for Arya.
415 reviews
February 24, 2010
I cannot stress enough how awesome this book was! Nya is a tortured character that not only possesses immense resolve and determination, but an honor and goodness that is refreshing, though throughout the book she is faced with the hardest choices I can immagine, still at the end of the story you love her despite her myriad flaws.

Nya is a fifteen year old orphan who has been landed with way too many responsibilites these range from her own saftey, work, food and board to being her sister's protector. This big responsibility has been significantly diminished as her sister is accepted into the Healer's League, as a new aprentice. Little do the sisters know that this will put Tali in more danger than she was ever in on the streets.

When Nya is caught trying to steal eggs the handsome young guard who corners her is less than accomindating (honor is not so appealing when you are the thief!) and she has to Shift. This brings her to the attention of the League - who she would really like to avoid! Unfortunately once you are in the Healer's League sights you are going to be tracked and bagged. . .

This is a study in pain and choice. How many lives would you trade to save the one who you love - the last, living member of you family? How many bodies will you bury to secure her safety? In this, Nya's story, she will be tested beyond imaganing. What she will choose will change her life forever. Three boys, three lives, an insurmountable obstacle.

This is a wonderful story - highly recommended - and embodies the seeming contradiction - The Healing Wars. . .I am so ready for the sequel!!
2 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2014
This book is written in the main character Nya's point of view. This book reminded me of how some people will do anything to protect there friends and family. Throughout the story Nya does many things that if word got around would put her in danger and chased by the healers league for shifting. Nya and her sister Tali are orphans from the war but Nya has to life on the streets because she can't feel pynium. One day when her sister goes missing she ends up putting her life on the line. She makes many friends and makes stronger bonds with the friends they had. One of the friends she makes is Donello and his family, and Aylin. Towards the end of the book she ends up with a ton of questions and no answers.
I would recommend this book to anyone really I have a hard time getting into books but I loved this book. I loved this book because I could easily picture the events of this books and I really enjoy this type of settings. Basically it's easy to read but is for my age.
The ending was completely different from what I thought it was going to be but I forgot this was the first book of a trilogy. With the way the book ends and the start of the second book it made complete sense to me. I honestly got the second book from my friend the same hour I finished the first book because I couldn't sit still not knowing what happens.(sorry the book isn't in front of me so some things might be misspelled).
Profile Image for Ithlilian.
1,676 reviews24 followers
January 12, 2011
I've had a hard time finding a good fantasy book in the YA genre. Some are too long winded and stale, some are too full of angst and drama, and others are just plain boring. The Shifter is unique and full of action. For once I actually care about the different backgrounds of the characters and the different factions. There wasn't a single thing I wasn't interested in in this book. I wish this book was more talked about and suggested. I stumbled upon it by chance at the library and I wish I had heard of it sooner! The magic system in this book is unique and well explained. I loved finding out more about Nya's powers and healing in general. The problems presented in the book are reasonable, believable, and actually make sense. Each character is dynamic and multidimensional. There are actually moral issues in this book as well. My only complaint would be that the bad guys are a bit one dimensional. They are the evil overlord type and driven by one thing-greed. I like my bad guys to be a bit more exciting, interesting, and sympathetic, but the rest of the novel more than makes up for it. The Shifter is nonstop action in a fully realized world surrounded by great characters. You can't go wrong reading this book, I would definitely recommend it to any fantasy fan.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 491 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.