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Healing Wars: Book I: The Shifter, The Hardcover – October 6, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Healing Wars Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8–10—In this first book in a planned trilogy, 15-year-old Nya and her younger sister, Tali, who were orphaned during the recent war that nearly destroyed their city, both have the gift of healing. Unlike Tali, though, Nya can't harmlessly shift the pain she takes from the sick and wounded into enchanted pynvium metal. Instead, she must shift it from person to person, a dangerous talent that she keeps hidden from the ruling Baseeri and from the Healer's League where Tali is an apprentice. Scrounging to make ends meet, Nya resorts to odd jobs and the occasional theft to stay alive. When a young soldier discovers her secret and implores her to save his dying father, Nya is forced to choose between protecting herself and acknowledging her ability to save others and perhaps her entire city. First-time author Hardy has written an inventive coming-of-age tale about a likable young woman whom readers will cheer throughout her exploits. Her appealing narration chronicles her expanding worldview as she progresses from a self-interested survivalist to a reluctant heroine to a determined rebel. Fantasy fans and those who just love a good story will enjoy this fast-paced novel and eagerly await book two.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In the tradition of strong-willed adventure heroines, Nya rallies, unleashing her powers as she faces complex moral dilemmas. Her first-person narration is suffused with the agony of deciding who will live or die. Timely ethical exploration in the guise of high-action fantasy. (Kirkus Reviews)

Nya’s distinctive first-person voice, strongly personable with a wry sense of humor, draws readers in…[the] hard-charging plot makes the pages fly by...Would you save someone’s life at the cost of unbearable pain to someone else?[Readers] will eagerly await the next volume of the Healing Wars. (The Horn Book)

The headstrong Nya and the innovative premise...keep readers turning the pages. (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

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

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 630L (What's this?)
  • Series: Healing Wars (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 370 pages
  • Publisher: BalzerBray; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061747041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061747045
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,007,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alyssa M. Kirk on November 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Although I haven't been a regular YA reader in decades, I picked up "The Shifter" on recommendation and read like I was under the covers with a flashlight again. I was impressed with the complex moral situations Nya faces. I loved the political backdrop--recently conquered island trying to find a new normal--and the intricacies of pain and healing in this world. Nya acts fast and does her best thinking on the move. The two cracks in the spine where I succeeded in walking away are when Nya has too much time in a safe room with friends. But with 25 years on the heroine, it may not be fair of me to begrudge her hang-out time. Eagerly awaiting book 2!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
3.5 Stars

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.

Jeatar – *MILD SPOILER ALERT* Jeatar was amazing! He intrigued me in Book 1, but, by Book 3, he was tied for first place as my favorite character in the series. He was so badass, but not just in a fighting/killing kind of way, rather in a ridiculously intelligent, stealthy, cool, calm, collected, take charge, make things happen, leadership kind of way. And he also really cared about people.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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