The Shifter

(2009)
The Shifter bookcover

Book 1 of the Healing Wars series

This story takes place in a world at war and where certain children have the ability to heal people by taking their pain and transferring it into a pynvium, a metal container used to store the pain. Nya and her sister, Tali, are orphans and they each have this gift of healing.  But Nya’s skill is different from Tali’s, in that it is flawed.  She cannot shift the pain into the pynvium, she can only shift it into another person.  Known as Takers, the girls can extract pain from the injured. Since Tali can push that pain into pynvium she becomes an apprentice for the Healer’s League, but Nya, who can only transfer pain to herself or others, must survive on her own.  She’s hunted by those eager to exploit her ability for their own purpose.  They are determined to make her a weapon, a killer, even a symbol for the war that’s brewing.  Thus Nya must learn to keep her skill a secret.

The story has one main plot but many conflicts that will affect the outcome for Nya and Tali.  All Nya wants is to protect her family and regain her people’s freedom, but the more she’s drawn into the plans of others, the more she realizes how important to everyone’s victory she really is. She realizes how much she’ll have to sacrifice just to survive. 

After a ferry accident cripples the city, Nya discovers that the league is kidnapping apprentices (including Tali) and overloading them with pain. When a young soldier discovers Nya’s secret and begs her to save his dying father she is forced to choose between protecting herself and acknowledging her ability to save others and perhaps her entire city.  Nya wrestles with guilt as she makes choices to save Tali and the others.  She is faced with the dilemma as to who will live or die because of her power.  Her closest friends and allies are Aylin, a former employee of the Duke, and Danello, the boy whose father she saves. 

Fantasy fans and those who just love a good story will enjoy this fast-paced novel and will eagerly await book two.

I would recommend this book for grades 5 through 10.

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