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?
From the very first page, The Shifter draws you in--the scene opens with Nya discussing the best way to steal chicken eggs. Which to me is pure brilliance.
The first thing I thought? Boy, does Nya have a voice. A great voice. Within the first pages alone, by dint of wonderful dialogue, voice, and action, The Shifter promises to be a great read--and the rest of the book certainly lives up to and even exceeds this expectation.
I really liked the premise, since it is something fresh in fantasy. The idea of a girl with the power to take and give pain is just plain fascinating--and the decision she faces of whether to use her power for good or evil is equally intriguing. But Nya is desperate to hide her gift from people who might use her talent to hurt others. Even though Nya could easily have become heartless and uncaring because of the situation she's in, she isn't. Nya is just absolutely wonderful, with her humorous, charismatic voice and caring nature--helping anyone from her sister, a boy she meets, or people in need. She is definitely a strong female protagonist, which is something I admire.
I love the world that Hardy created--I thought it was well fleshed out, and the conflict between the occupying Baseeri and the Gevegians is very believable. Nya herself is Gevegian; a war orphan that has fallen on hard times since the Baseeri took over.
The Shifter presents some serious moral decisions: Nya is faced with many hard choices throughout the book--wealth and everything she wants versus using her power in a way that she knows isn't right. Of course, this is all expertly intertwined into a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy that had me flipping pages feverishly. And there was some cute-maybe-romance to accompany Nya's adventurous exploits.
I couldn't get enough--I wanted more Nya, more of her wittiness and charm, more of the world portrayed in The Shifter. This book is just pure enjoyment--it will transport you to a whole other, wondrous world filled with Takers, Shifters, and magic of more than one kind.
I give it a 9/10
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