The very talented Janice Hardy is having a contest for her second book in the Healing Wars Trilogy, entitled Blue Fire. If you haven't read the first book, The Shifter, then you seriously must correct this unfortunate mistake. I was going to do a short summary of The Shifter, then thought, what the heck, might as well do a full blown review.
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?
Reader's review: I read The Shifter last fall as soon as it came out and I was duly impressed. Hardy has created a brave, strong-willed female character in a world that is totally unique. It was imaginative, creative and packed with suspense - one kept wondering just how was Nya going to get out of all this? And although it's a middle grade book, there were some hints at a coming romance - I have to say that I'm curious how that will play out. In all, it kept me reading straight through and I definitely plan to buy the sequel (if I don't win an ARC) *begs the ARC gods to have mercy*. Reader's score 4.5.
Writer's review. The Shifter is engaging from the very first words. Just to prove my point, here's the first paragraph:
Stealing eggs is a lot harder than stealing the whole chicken. With chickens, you just grab a hen, stuff her in a sack and, make your escape. But for eggs, you have to stick your hand under a sleeping chicken. Chickens don't like this. They wake all spooked and start pecking holes in your arm, or your face, if it's close. And they squawk something terrible.
Don't you want to see what's going to happen now? I love this opening, and I have to admit I'm a tad jealous here. I wish that I could get my openings down as neatly as Janice does, but I usually go through 5-10 versions before I come across one that I sort of like. As for the rest of the writing, I only really have two nit picky things to tell you and these are really nit picky because honestly I can't think of anything else to say about it. The first was the explanatory pages that occurred in about chapter 2-3 that explained what the deal with the healing was and some of the stuff about the war and it's leaders. I understand that it was necessary in order for the reader to ground themselves in Nya's world, but not having read much in the genre, it felt just a little telly to me. The other thing was much further back in the book during a high action scene where I got just a little confused by all that was going on and had to re-read it 2-3 times before I finally figured it out. But, that's it, folks. The rest of the writing is fantastic. The characters are unique, the scenery is descriptive and I loved Nya's little sayings - I'd give you an example but I loaned the book to my sister so I don't have it here. But, they made me smile and I know they will you too. My writer's score = 4.5
Now that I have you all psyched to read The Shifter - go and buy it and then enter yourself for the ARC contest of it's sequel, Blue Fire.