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?
I was drawn into this book from page one, whilst magical healing is something that you see a lot in fantasy, this book dealt with it originally. I don't see how it was really dystopian though, there were references to what had happened in the past, a war and Geveg being taken over, but I think the book worked perfectly well as just a high fantasy. nevertheless, I enjoyed it.
I struggled a little to keep up with who was who and what was going on, the politics confused me, as did the magic side of things. I enjoyed the storyline though, I liked watching Nya grow from a girl trying to fit in to somebody proud of her own abilities and I liked the group of friends that she surrounded herself with, their interactions were very realistic.
The worldbuilding is very rich and beautiful, and the characters were reasonably well developed. I particularly liked Danello, a night guard and possible love interest to Nya and I look forward to reading more of him.
Overall, this book was a great fantasy with a fantastic concept. Unfortunately the politically intrigue could have been toned down a little.
Overall Rating: B
Stand Alone/Series: First in a series
UK Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens Books
Uk Release: 6th January 2011
Book received from Read It, Swap It