Book Review: The Shifter (The Healing Wars Book 1) by Janice Hardy

In a world where both pain and the pynvium it's stored in are valuable items, Nya has an ability that no other Taker has---she can shift the pain she takes into other people. But then, against her better judgment, Nya starts using her ability to help people, not realizing the consequences it will have. When the wrong people find out and Nya's sister goes missing, things start to spiral out of her control, and she must make difficult decisions about what the lives of those she cares about are worth.

Book Review: The Shifter (The Healing Wars Book 1) by Janice Hardy | books, reading, book covers, book reviews, fantasy, high fantasy, middle grade, YA
Title: The Shifter
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 388
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


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* 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. *END SPOILER*

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.


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  1. Greg

    The cover did catch my eye, and I thought this did look different than your usual reads. Looks good though, I like the idea of shifting pain or whatever- kinda like an empath? You don’t see too many empath stories (or at least I don’t)- does she transfer the actual wound to someone else? And a pain merchant? Wow that sounds interesting.

    Glad the characters were awesome, I don’t read a lot of middle grade but this one looks promising. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I wouldn’t say it’s like an empath actually. Empaths I’ve read about involuntarily feel what everyone around them is feeling, whereas in this book Nya has to touch the person and then actively draw the pain from them or push it into them. And no, the wound itself doesn’t transfer, just the pain. They use the pain to make weapons which is why they have pain merchants. It is a pretty interesting concept 🙂

  2. Lola

    I think I bought a copy of this one a long time ago. I liked the sound of the concept and the cover is pretty! I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one. Humor is always tricky in books and ther eonly very few books that make me laugh out loud, so that makes me curious. I adon’t read a lot of a high fantasy or MG, but I do read both now and then, a bit more MG than high fantasy lately. I do like MG books with a lot of action and avdenture and great characters, so i think I will enjoy this one. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t know your preferences *exactly*, but, from what I do know, I think you might like this one. It does have some good adventure, and the characters are so likeable! If you do have it, you’ll have to let me know when you read it 🙂

  3. Aentee

    I am getting all deja vu from this because I swear I’ve seen this cover and read this book – but reading your synopsis, it sounds like nothing I can remember ahaha. The premise sounds incredibly fascinating, though <3 I don't often gravitate towards MG either but would make an exception for this one.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha that’s the worst when you swear you’ve read a book or even seen a movie or something but can’t actually remember it. It is a pretty interesting premise. It worked out well for me as an exception 😛

  4. Bookworm Brandee

    I am not a reader of high fantasy or much middle grade but a character driven story with well developed, likable characters? That I’m game for. 🙂 I’m glad you had a good time getting to know these characters and that the story was well paced. I may check out this series, if only to see if one of my kids would enjoy it. My son in particular loves high fantasy. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      If your son likes high fantasy, then he might love it! Though it does have a female protagonist, and there was a bit of a romantic element though it wasn’t a huge thing, so I don’t know how he would feel about that. Thanks, I really did love the characters 🙂

  5. Faith

    I really liked the concept of her being able to keep the pain as well as shifting the pain not the injury to a another person
    i also like how she’s a little younger than characters in young adult books and her love for her sister i argue with mine all the time and how romance isn’t strong which i think can distract them and ruins it a little
    theres a lot of ands in this comment
    i just finished the first book today
    tho the villians were very villainous just wanting to use her for their own gain.
    i haven’t seen much books with male protagonists which disappoints me it always a older teen girl finding out something about the society isn’t as good as they were told or knowing something that puts them in danger but with her she knew well enough of what the city is like but that’s the dystopia part talkin i guess and i haven’t seen morelle or hilma or anyone else earlier mentioned in the other half of the book what happened to them
    i myself usually don’t read middle school books unless im reading or rereading a series i had/hadn’t finished in middle school but i love fanasty
    anyway that’s it part of it not even related

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was a very cool concept! Especially interesting how she shifted the pain but not the injury. I agree, the sister love was great, and it’s nice when the romance in a book doesn’t overpower the story.

      It does seem like there are more YA books with girl protags. I don’t know about middle grade since I don’t read much in that age category. Tbh I read this a while ago and don’t even remember those characters you mentioned, so I guess they weren’t much part of the story.

      Rereading books from when you were younger can be fun!